In practical terms, the push faces a very stiff battle. First, it has to pass the House. The chamber is controlled by Democrats, but its leadership hasn’t been especially encouraging about the impeachment push. “They haven’t been crazy about it. I guess they’re worried it’s going to hurt the Democrats’ ability to work with Republicans,” Chipman says. But he argues it won’t make much difference, and notes that LePage’s clashes with the legislature mean that the two parties are already working together on many bills to reach the two-thirds margin necessary to override LePage’s vetoes. (When he makes them in time, that is—the governor made news in July when he tried and failed to veto a bill before it was enacted into law.)
Chipman hopes that the events of the past few days will help drum up support for the impeachment push. He says some colleagues have contacted him since LePage’s racist comments to say they were supporting the effort, or more open to it. LePage also said Tuesday that he might not make a State of the State speech as usual, and might deliver his annual report in written form instead, apparently just another front in his ongoing fight with legislators.
Even if the House votes in favor, two-thirds of the Senate would have to vote to convict—likely a non-starter in the GOP-controlled chamber, despite Republicans’ own tensions with LePage. LePage’s office did not respond to requests to comment on this story.
Previously, LePage has said that President Obama “hates white people.” He refused to attend Martin Luther King Day celebrations, compared the IRS to the Gestapo, and expressed a desire to blow up the offices of the Portland Press Herald. Of a Democratic senator, Le Page said he “claims to be for the people but he’s the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline," and added: "People like Troy Jackson, they ought to go back into the woods and cut trees and let someone with a brain come down here and do some good work.”
How did such an uncouth character get elected governor—not just one, but twice? And how did he manage to do so even while alienating members of his own party? For one thing, he’s never won a majority of the vote. In 2010, he edged independent Eliot Cutler by fewer than 10,000 votes in a three-way race, pulling less than 38 percent of the vote. In 2014, the opposition to LePage again split between Cutler and a Democrat, Mike Michaud, affording LePage a plurality and the win. But his share of the vote, and his total number of votes, did increase in 2014. This means that the case against LePage suffers from the same weakness as many other impeachment proceedings: Bracketing out the cases of clear and egregious lawbreaking mid-term, shouldn’t the people decide, rather than legislators? After all, they elected him.