AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine's often-brash Republican governor — who once told the Portland branch of the NAACP to "kiss my butt," called protesters "idiots," referred to government managers as "corrupt" and compared the IRS to the Gestapo — has done it again.
But this time critics say he's gone too far.
Gov. Paul LePage used crude language Thursday to express his frustration over the state budget, targeting a Democratic opponent with a sexually vulgar phrase to describe how he believes he is taking advantage of the people.
The remarks, made to journalists from two television stations and one newspaper, were targeted at state Sen. Troy Jackson, an assistant Democratic Leader who criticized the governor's veto announcement and call for 60-day reprieve to negotiate a new budget as a political stunt. Jackson said that the Legislature had enough votes to override the veto and that there was no need for lawmakers to negotiate with LePage.
LePage said Jackson "claims to be for the people, but he's the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline."
He later added: "Dammit, that comment is not politically correct, but we got to understand who this man is.
"This man is a bad person," LePage continued. "He doesn't only have no brains. He has a black heart and so does the leadership upstairs."
WMTW reporter Paul Merrill told him others might find the Vaseline remark offensive.
"Good," LePage replied. "It ought to, because I've been taking it for two years."
Democrats called the governor's words disrespectful and a failure of leadership.
Sen. Seth Goodall, Democratic leader, said there should be no room for personal attacks and insults on someone's character in Maine government.
"Language like this is offensive, no matter who says it. We expect more in our schools. We expect more at home around our kitchen table. And surely we expect more from our governor."
Jackson said that he has not seen the video but that he has heard the governor's comments and is not bothered by them.
"I've had a lot of people say nasty things about me in the past. ... That's OK, that's democracy," Jackson told reporters. "But I do think it's inappropriate the way he said it. We can be disagreeable without making nasty comments like that, and I just think it's unfortunate that the man that is supposed to be the leader of our state makes comments like that."
LePage, who was elected in 2010 with tea party support, is known for speaking his mind.
LePage spokeswoman Samantha Warren said the governor's remarks reflect his increasing frustration that the Democrats are pushing forward with a budget that would raise taxes and hurt hard-working Maine families.
He and Jackson have clashed in the past over a number of issues, including a bill LePage signed last year that Jackson said eliminated a number of regulations that have been put in place to make sure Americans' logging jobs don't go to Canadians.
LePage's administration said the aim was to cut bureaucracy and red tape that restrain businesses and make them less competitive.
But Jackson, who is a logger in northern Maine, called it part of LePage's "ongoing assault on Maine workers."