Politics & Other Mistakes: Go south, old man

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Outgoing Republican Gov. Paul LePage has issued a warning that if he doesn’t like the way incoming Democratic Gov. Janet Mills handles the job, he’s prepared to run against her in 2022.

We can be sure LePage means what he says, because he never makes these kinds of stupid promises without following through on them.

Except.

When he announced shortly after his election in 2010 that his administration would be “the most transparent in Maine’s history.” Since then, he’s routinely ignored requests for public documents, concealed details of contracts the state negotiated with private vendors and kept his schedule of public appearances a deep secret (possibly because his trips out of state sometimes included pricey stays at Trump hotels).

Except.

When he repeatedly threatened to run against independent U.S. Sen. Angus King in 2018 if GOP challenger Eric Brakey’s campaign didn’t catch fire. It didn’t and he didn’t.

Except.

When he proclaimed just before the November election that he was planning to leave the state. “I’ll be a resident of Florida if Janet Mills wins. I can promise you that,” LePage told reporters. “I am done with politics.”

Just for the record, residents of Florida aren’t eligible to run for governor of Maine.

LePage has said the accomplishment he’s proudest of is getting the state’s fiscal house in order by cutting spending and reducing taxes. But his pride only goes so far, stopping just north of the bulge in his pants that conceals his wallet.

“I’ll tell you very, very simply,” he explained. “I have a house in Florida. I will pay no income tax, and the house in Florida’s property taxes are $2,000 less than we were paying in Boothbay. At my age, why wouldn’t you conserve your resources and spend it on your family instead of on taxes.”

Maybe because the optics of abandoning the state you led for eight years would be bad for your legacy.

Having thoroughly trashed Maine as a place to retire (and done a pretty decent job of making the state appear unattractive to younger people considering relocating here), LePage will exit stage right, somehow convinced he’s done his public duty by promoting the virtues of the Sunshine State.

If there were any justice in the world, he’d get eaten by an alligator.

Assuming Florida’s gators have more refined palates than that, what are the odds LePage might stage a triumphant return to the Blaine House in 2020?

Near zero.

Four years is an eternity in the current political climate, and by the next election, LePage’s base of support will likely have eroded significantly.

In his absence, lots of old, white, delusional cranks will have died of apoplexy over the actions of a Democratic administration, while some of those who survive will have been lured away by candidates who appeal to even baser instincts than the LePage agenda could offer. The ex-governor would have to start from scratch to find supporters. Except maybe for Shawn Moody.

Also, the election would be held in November, not a month conducive to the return of Florida snowbirds.

There will be no LePage reboot, no matter how much he seethes and sputters from afar. Maine conservatives will have moved on, either because they learned their lesson about the drawbacks of embracing an incompetent extremist, or because they decided they need somebody even more incompetent and extreme.

After all, there are plenty of alt-right neo-Nazis kicking around the hinterlands just waiting for an opportunity to sneak into the mainstream by persuading impressionable Republican voters they’re more LePage than LePage could ever be.

The departing governor’s years in office did plenty of damage to Maine’s image as a welcoming place governed by rational human beings. He won’t have that problem in Florida. No one considers that state’s government to be even remotely rational, and many observers believe it’s being operated by space aliens.

For those reasons, LePage’s move is unlikely to harm the reputation of his adopted home. In fact, it might even improve it. Hard as it is to believe, this Maine transplant is more honest, more sensible and more likeable than the average slimy Florida politician.

Looking at it that way, it doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility that LePage could spend 2020 running for governor.

Of Florida.

Pythons, huge roaches and the Miami Marlins are just some of the reasons you should never venture south of Georgia. If you have others, email them to me at [email protected].

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