SANFORD, Maine — Although most of the more than 100 people at Gov. Paul LePage’s town hall in Sanford Wednesday night applauded and cheered as he spoke, there were a couple who butted heads with him — including state Rep. Patricia Hymanson, D-York.
Hymanson represents House District 4, which includes Ogunquit and parts of York, Sanford and Wells.
LePage said that under a plan he proposed, 4,200 people who were disabled, elderly or mentally ill were taken off the waitlist for state services. However, he said, the Legislature stepped in and put 3,000 back on the waiting list.
The $30 million that was to fund his plan, LePage claimed, was “taken away from taking care of Mainers,” and was instead given to cities such as Portland and Lewiston/Auburn and to the education system, implying the money was used to help the cities that provide support services to refugees.
“No, it’s because people are on multiple waitlists, that’s why,” called out Hymanson from her seat in the audience. LePage’s press secretary, Adrienne Bennett, asked Hymanson not to “shout out.”
Hymanson said she was a legislator and a member of the Health and Human Services Committee.
“And that’s the problem. … You people are making decisions that you don’t know what’s going on,” said LePage.
Hymanson said she was also a physician.
“Even worse, because you’re emotional about it and not taking in the facts,” said LePage. “You do not take the information that’s given to you.”
“I resent that. I resent that tremendously,” replied Hymanson.
LePage asked her to leave, but Hymanson refused.
“I’m not going to be harassed by you,” she said.
LePage said Hymanson did not follow the protocol for public comment of signing up to ask a question.
“You were talking out of turn. That’s disrespectful,” said LePage.
After the meeting, Hymanson said the waitlist issue is complicated, and that numbers are unclear because some people may be on multiple waitlists. For example, a family member of someone who is disabled and desperately in need of care may put the person on more than one waitlist to “hedge their bets,” she said.
Hymanson said that, having put in many hours in Augusta, she is very aware of the issue, and she thought the governor’s forum needed more give-and-take discussion.
“When I heard him say something that was very different from my understanding of what’s happening, it was very hard to sit in my chair and not have the steam come out of my ears and pop up and say something about it,” she said.
Moments prior to LePage’s disagreement with Hymanson, James Roux, who had been kicked out of other LePage forums across the state, started heckling the governor when he was discussing immigration, refugees and asylum seekers.
Roux compared LePage to Hitler and said, “You’re a bad man.”
“Get a life,” said LePage as Roux was escorted out of the building.