This week in Maine politics: Sept. 25, 2022

Paul LePage has benefited from Florida property tax laws intended for residents of Florida; meanwhile, he rolled out his plan to combat what he contends are “extreme woke agendas” in schools.
Paul LePage speaks during a campaign event with a crowd of people behind him, including some holding a red and blue sign that says LEPAGE GOVERNOR 2022
Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul LePage has been a major talking point in Maine's political scene over the past week, from his interest in a Trump administration job, to his education plan, to benefitting from a Florida tax law. Photo by Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald.

Today, we’ll begin a periodic compilation of reporting on the state’s politics leading up to the Nov. 8 elections.

The biggest political news of the past week broke early Saturday morning, when the New York Times reported that former Governor Paul LePage and his wife Ann LePage benefited from Florida property tax laws intended for residents of that state.

From 2009 to 2015, and also from 2018 through the end of this year, the couple received property tax breaks reserved for permanent Florida residents, public records show,” the Times reported. The Times estimated that the couple benefited by about $8,500.

LePage is seeking to return to office (and presumably, to live in the Blaine House, too) for a third, non consecutive term. He has campaigned to end the state income tax and has decried a Maine state law that requires snowbirds to spend more than half the year in Florida to take advantage of that state’s lower tax rate, the Times reported.

The candidate’s political adviser, Brent Littlefield, told the Portland Press Herald the Florida properties in question are solely owned by the ex-Governor’s wife, Ann. Littlefield told the Press Herald that Ann was a permanent resident of Florida until “earlier this year” while her husband regained his Maine residency last year.

“The arrangement, while unusual, would explain why Paul LePage could be running for governor of Maine and claiming a permanent residence at a rented home in Edgecomb while his wife was a Florida resident and claiming the homestead exemption there,” the Press Herald reported.

LePage pitches education plan

Earlier in the week, LePage rolled out his education plan. 

“The sweeping initiative includes a full expansion of Maine’s school voucher program to include all students, as well as proposals that he said would fix a school system mismanaged by Democratic Gov. Janet Mills,” Maine Public reported. “Democrats say the proposal would allow the state to dictate curricula to local school districts and gut funding for public education.”

The Republican criticized Mills for what he said “an extreme woke agendas,” according to published reports. 

“Our curriculums need to focus on teaching our children how to think, not what to think,” he said.

An anti-racist video becomes campaign fodder

Education was also the focus of a back and forth between Mills and her conservative opponents.

The conservative website Breitbart reported on a video on the state Department of Education website that calls the MAGA slogan used by ex-president Trump’s followers an example of “covert racism.” 

The Bangor Daily News later reported that the Department of Education was standing by the video, which is included in an online module on inclusivity that is available for educators. Republicans criticized Mills for the anti-racism plan, again accusing her of pushing a “woke curriculum,’’ the Portland Press Herald reported. 

LePage sought Trump administration jobs

The Press Herald reported that LePage sought positions in the Trump administration before he left office. “I’m writing to express my strong interest in a position within your administration,” LePage wrote in 2016, with two years remaining in his own term as governor. 

He wanted to be a national point person on welfare reform. In 2017, the Press Herald reported, LePage sought another position, as head of Millennium Challenge Corp., an independent U.S. government foreign aid organization.

His former chief of staff told the Press Herald there was “no chance” LePage would have stepped down before his term ended.

Short takes

The former governor is set to make several stops in Washington County on Monday, according to the Machias Valley News Observer.

 The Maine Monitor looked at why the Sappi Mill became a flashpoint in the governor’s race.

Two recent polls show Mills ahead of LePage in the the most recent temperature takes of the public since the spring.

Maine Public’s Steve Mistler and Kevin Miller note that LePage is having a hard time outrunning his past

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David Dahl

Veteran journalist David Dahl serves as the editor of The Maine Monitor, overseeing its daily operations. David was most recently a deputy managing editor at the Boston Globe. Before joining the Globe, David worked for 20 years at the St. Petersburg Times. He was a Nieman fellow at Harvard University and a fellow at the Sulzberger Executive Leadership Program at Columbia University. He has also been an adjunct professor of journalism at Emerson College, Boston College and Boston University. David and his wife, Kathy, enjoy tennis and kayaking at their home in Friendship. They have two adult children.
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