It’s been quite a month for the LePage wing of the Maine Republican Party.
In February, the party’s executive director, Jason Savage, was outed as the anonymous author of a fake news website, The Maine Examiner. Savage had previously denied involvement in the site, but was forced to admit his role once his digital fingerprints were uncovered. Savage portrayed the site as a group effort of “concerned citizens,” and used the site to proliferate exaggerated attacks on Democrats.
The denial and subsequent public outing was a huge blow to the credibility of Savage and the party. Savage has been one of the most ruthless zealots in the LePage cult of personality, and the karmic retribution for his breathless attacks on the integrity of others finally came home to roost.
Soon after Savage’s public shaming, one of his close allies in the LePage cabal, former LePage advisor David Sorensen, took center stage. Sorensen was forced to resign his position as a speechwriter in the White House after his ex-wife made public accusations of domestic abuse. Sorensen’s story went national, as his former spouse made claims that he put a cigarette out on her hand, became violent with her while on a boat, and ran over her foot with his car.
Sorensen denied the allegations, and went on a Maine media tour in order to trash his accuser. He produced a voluminous document maligning his ex-wife, claiming she’d been fired from multiple jobs, had mental problems, and, the real kicker — she doesn’t like President Donald Trump.
The Maine GOP joined in the public attacks on the alleged victim. A number of Maine Republican legislators took to the internet, shamefully attacking the former Mrs. Sorensen with insults to her character and her mental health.
It was a disgusting display, but it got even worse.
Sorensen paid someone to videotape him taking a lie detector test. Sitting like a dull lump in a hostage situation, Sorensen answered a number of strangely-worded, highly circumscribed questions to give the appearance of his innocence. The interviewer at one point mentioned answering the questions “just like we practiced.” It was not an impressive display.
To distribute the video, Sorensen appears to have broken into his old email address at the state party, and sent the video out to a Maine GOP email list from the address “David@MaineGOP.com.” He later claimed it was an accident, and the party quickly issued a statement disassociating itself from him.
Despite all this, Gov. Paul LePage declared “100 percent support” for Sorensen, and even offered him his old job back.
The month continued to get worse for Team LePage.
Shawn Moody, whose gubernatorial campaign is run by LePage’s daughter and political advisor, called a talk radio show in the aftermath of the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida. At the end of the call, Moody made the absurd suggestion that students and teachers can use fire extinguishers to fend off school shooters. He called the idea a “common sense” solution.
Moody’s foolish suggestion became national news, from CNN to USAToday to Slate and many others. Despite the clear absurdity of his statement, Team LePage took to the internet to defend him, even posting silly photos of factory workers spraying each other with fire extinguishers to try and substantiate the reasoning.
Around the same time, the bumbling incompetence of Team LePage and his Maine GOP gang took an even darker turn.
LePage received intense criticism for shutting down a Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) child abuse prevention program, announcing abruptly that the program’s $2.2 million in funding would no longer be distributed. Just days later, 10-year old Marissa Kennedy was allegedly beaten to death at the hands of her parents in Stockton Springs. Her former teachers and neighbors told press that they had made multiple reports to DHHS’ child abuse hotline, but apparently nothing was done about it.
Days later, statistics were released showing an enormous spike in child abuse cases during the LePage administration, rising 52 percent between 2008 and 2016. Another report showed DHHS failed to answer more than 12,000 calls to the child abuse hotline in 2016.
This was an epic and tragic systemic failure, whose blame rests solely with LePage and his incompetent team.
While much of the foolishness of this cadre of misfit bunglers results in pies blowing up in their own faces, their actions result in real harm to real people sometimes, as the Marissa Kennedy situation shows.
There has been too much willingness to believe the stumbling antics of LePage’s political apparatus do not affect his management of state government. The lesson for all of us should be that if you put obviously incompetent people in charge, bad things will happen.
The LePage wing of the Maine GOP has more than proven its incompetence, and we can only hope this lesson is learned by enough voters come November.