PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Concerned about ‘‘the negativism, the bravado, the fighting’’ that he says characterizes Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s leadership, former Democratic Gov. John Baldacci said Tuesday he’s considering a return to politics and that he isn’t ruling out challenging LePage in two years.
Baldacci said he cares about Maine and wants to do his part, but said he hasn’t decided whether that means a return to politics, or some other role.
‘‘I'm concerned about the state and the direction that the state has taken. I want to work with people to try to be supportive and helpful. I don’t know what form that will take,’’ he said.
The blunt-speaking LePage has previously told the NAACP to ‘‘kiss my butt,’’ compared the IRS to the Gestapo, and described state managers as corrupt. He offended organized labor by removing a mural depicting labor history from the Labor Department lobby and said Maine’s schools might rank lower than Puerto Rico, should it become a state.
‘‘I want to see us get back on the right track and not become a joke on ‘Saturday Night Live,’’ Baldacci said.
The former two-term governor spoke to The Associated Press after addressing his concerns over national debt at the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce annual breakfast in Hermon.
He’s teaming up with his former Republican gubernatorial opponent Rick Bennett on the state chapter of ‘‘Fix the Debt.’’ Baldacci said problem-solving requires bipartisan solutions instead of partisan bickering, as well as the understanding that ‘‘compromise is not a dirty word.’’
After leaving office, the term-limited Baldacci said he’s purposefully kept a low profile while working as senior adviser for economic, development and government relations with Pierce Atwood LLC, a law firm that offers consulting services. The idea was to give his successor time to establish himself.
But Baldacci said Tuesday that he’s seen enough of LePage putting opponents down and picking fights. For two months, LePage has refused to meet with Democratic legislative leaders.
Baldacci said it’s possible to make cuts necessary to balance the state budget while still finding money to invest in research and development and education.
‘‘There comes a time when you sit back or you get engaged. This is my home. This is where my family is. This is a state I care about. I'm going to try to do my part,’’ Baldacci said.
LePage has set up a re-election committee and has begun raising money, but there’s been no official announcement on whether he plans to run for a second term. That decision will come later.
As for Baldacci’s remarks, the LePage administration had no official comment. But Brent Littlefield, the governor’s political adviser, said people were ready for changes after Baldacci’s eight years. ‘‘The state is aware of where Gov. Baldacci’s standing was when he left office,’’ Littlefield said.
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