AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage says he is ending a long tradition in which the chief executive delivers an annual State of the State address to the Legislature.
LePage says that he would be a hypocrite to appear before a joint convention of the Legislature just days after it considers an impeachment resolution.
The governor has been at odds with this Legislature since he was sworn into a second term a year ago. He says that tension is one of the reasons that he has decided not to address the Legislature in person, as governors have done in live broadcasts for many years.
"There's no secret that the Legislature is trying to impeach me and I am not going to be impeached one day and stand in front of them and make everybody happy and nice," he says. "They don't like me and the feeling is mutual. And so therefore let the Legislature do their business and let the governor do his business."
Instead, the governor says he will submit a State of the State address to lawmakers in writing. His decision surprised legislative leaders, who have been discussing possible dates for a joint convention.
"For the governor to refuse to address the people of Maine I think is a new precedent, a new low," says Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves, who has been at odds with LePage both politically and personally. "People elect us to do our job and the governor is failing to do his job if he doesn't show up."
Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau says the governor is giving up the opportunity to reach a statewide audience and get the media attention that a State of the State address usually receives.
"People back home look forward to it and, you know, if he wants to convey his agenda or his message in any way that's a great opportunity to do that because it isn't just a short sound bite but instead he can share his vision for the state," he says.
But Thibodeau says that's the governor's decision to make.
LePage says he hopes the state's news media will report on his written address in the same way that they have covered broadcast addresses of the past.
"And if you want me on your radio station, I can read it to everybody," he says.
University of Maine at Farmington political science professor Jim Melcher says LePage’s decision to break with a long tradition could hurt him with some members of his own party.
"People in the Legislature in his party might see it as disrespectful to the Legislature as a body, and as such that's the kind of thing that might hurt him with people that might otherwise be inclined to support him," he says.
Melcher says much of LePage's strategy this year, such as the series of town meetings across the state and his public comments criticizing the Legislature, is aimed at the November elections, in which he hopes to help get candidates elected that will support his policies on taxes, energy and welfare reform.
Melcher says it's a high stakes bet that may or may not pay off.