Paul LePage, the combative Republican governor of Maine, cast shade on the rumored gubernatorial aspirations of the state’s centrist Republican Senator Susan Collins.
In remarks given in an interview with Maine’s WGAN, the controversial firebrand had this to say about one of his possible successors:
I will say this right away. I do firmly believe deep down in my heart that Susan Collins, in order to become the governor of the state of Maine, will have to run as an independent, and she’s highly unlikely to win a Republican primary.
LePage suggested instead that she should perhaps run as an independent, and said she would likely win in that scenario.
LePage’s comments laid bare the rift between the more Trump-inclined base of the Republican party, versus the moderate middle-of-the-road sensibility needed to be competitive in a blue-leaning state like Maine.
LePage himself was only elected with small pluralities, both times with a left-leaning independent candidates splitting the Democratic vote. The state’s other Senator, Angus King, was elected as both governor and senator as an independent, though he caucuses with the Democrats.
Collins has made little secret of the fact that she is considering leaving Washington for a bid for the state’s chief executive office. Official spokesmen for Collins confirmed that, but insist no decision has been made. The spokesmen did not comment on LePage’s unsolicited advice on her partisan affiliation. LePage himself is ineligible to seek re-election to a third term under Maine’s term limits.
The scenario of LePage’s election and re-election also led to Maine voters, with heavy support from Democrats and third-party supporters, to pass ranked-choice voting in a 2016 referendum.
The states of ranked choice voting in Maine remains unclear because of a state Supreme Court decision against the measure. Since then, the state legislature passed a constitutional amendment overturning that decision. As the constitutional amendment has to go back to the voters for a decision, it remains unclear whether or not ranked choice voiting would be in place for the 2018 elections.
(Photo of Sen. Susan Collins talking to reporters following a Republican caucus meeting in the Capitol July 27, 2017 as Senate Republican worked to pass a stripped-down, or “Skinny Repeal,” version of Obamacare reform. Collins was one of three Republicans to vote against the repeal. By Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.)