Maine governor under fire after leaving obscene voicemail

June 7, 2016: Maine Gov. Paul LePage attends an opioid abuse conference in Boston.

June 7, 2016: Maine Gov. Paul LePage attends an opioid abuse conference in Boston.  (AP)

Maine Gov. Paul LePage was under fire from Democratic lawmakers Friday after unleashing an expletive-ridden tirade on a liberal lawmaker in which he said “I am after you” – remarks for which he later gave a qualified apology.

Although LePage apologized Friday to “the people of Maine,” he did not apologize to Rep. Drew Gattine, despite leaving the obscene voicemail message on his machine.

The controversy began Wednesday when LePage said at a town hall that photos he's collected in a binder of drug dealers arrested in the state showed that 90 percent of them "are black and Hispanic people from Waterbury, Connecticut; the Bronx; and Brooklyn."

According to the Portland Press Herald, LePage left the message on Gattine’s voicemail Thursday when a television reporter asked the governor what he would say to people who are calling him a racist after the town hall. LePage asked who had called him that and the reporter said he had talked to Gattine, but didn’t say Gattine had called the governor a racist. Gattine denies calling LePage a racist.

After storming out of the press conference, LePage called Gattine’s office.

“Mr. Gattine, this is Gov. Paul Richard LePage,” the governor said, according to a recording of the phone message obtained by the Press Herald. “I would like to talk to you about your comments about my being a racist, you c---sucker. I want to talk to you. I want you to prove that I’m a racist. I’ve spent my life helping black people and you little son-of-a-b----, socialist c---sucker. You … I need you to, just friggin. I want you to record this and make it public because I am after you. Thank you.”

At a Thursday press conference, LePage didn’t back down, saying he wished it was 1825 so he could shoot Gattine in a duel.

“When a snot-nosed little guy from Westbrook calls me a racist, now I’d like him to come up here because, tell you right now, I wish it were 1825,” LePage said. “And we would have a duel, that’s how angry I am, and I would not put my gun in the air, I guarantee you, I would not be (Alexander) Hamilton. I would point it right between his eyes, because he is a snot-nosed little runt and he has not done a damn thing since he’s been in this Legislature to help move the state forward.”

Gattine said he was stunned to receive the voicemail. "My first thought after I listened is I'm really glad I'm not in the room. He sounded like if I'd been in the room with him that he'd be attacking me physically," he said.

House and Senate Democrats and the Maine Democratic Party on Friday questioned LePage's capacity to lead. LePage said he would not resign unless several of his political opponents, including Gattine, did as well.

Assistant House Democratic Leader Sara Gideon called for a "political intervention" from members of both parties to ensure either that the governor "gets the help that he needs" or that he's removed from office.

Police in Westbrook said Friday that they had received a citizen complaint about the voicemail. A police official said the complaint came from someone who didn't live in the city. It's unclear if there will be an investigation.

Gattine has differed with the governor on how to address welfare reform, drug addiction and eligibility for developmental disabilities programs. But LePage said Friday that he didn't know Gattine "from a hole in the wall" until Thursday.

Michael Thibodeau, the Republican president of the Maine Senate, also rebuked LePage, saying it "damages our public institutions when inappropriate comments come from either party."

LePage, whose second and final term as governor ends in 2019, has a history of drawing attention for his blunt remarks. In January, he said drug dealers with names like "D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty" are getting Maine's white women pregnant. He later apologized, saying he meant to say "Maine women" and not "white women."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.