Former Gov. Paul LePage threatened to “deck” a Maine Democratic Party staffer if he got too close during a campaign appearance in Madawaska on Sunday, a newly released video shows.
“Six feet away, or I’m going to deck you,” LePage told the staffer, who was filming the former governor and Republican gubernatorial candidate in this year’s election.
“Come into my space, you’re going down. Enough is enough,” LePage said while pointing his finger at the staffer in a video first posted by The Daily Beast on Thursday morning.
The interaction came during a campaign appearance by LePage at the Madawaska Acadian Festival, as he joined supporters and ate a doughnut by a table at the festival.
LePage campaign spokesperson Brent Littlefield referred a reporter to the Maine Republican Party for a comment but defended LePage’s character.
“Paul LePage is not like most people. He was homeless as a child and was forced to live on the streets, overcoming tremendous odds to earn an advanced college degree, become a successful businessman, mayor and governor,” Littlefield said.
Democratic Party spokesperson Misha Linnehan did not identify the staffer, but said he was a research associate with the party.
Linnehan said the staffer had been to several other events with LePage, but never had a “particularly negative” interaction before the one in the video. The opening of the 22-second video is when the staffer started filming LePage at the Madawaska event, Linnehan said.
Linnehan said the staffer always strives to protect candidates’ personal space when filming them and give them “plenty of room.”
“This level of vitriol was unexpected and surprising, particularly for someone who served as governor for eight years,” Linnehan said. “Then again, given his previous threats, we should expect LePage’s behavior.”
While it’s common for trackers to film candidates from the opposing party, LePage has lashed out against a Democratic tracker filming him in the past. As governor, he once canceled a meeting with Democratic legislative leaders in 2012 because a party operative had filmed him during a Veterans Day event.
The next day, he singled out the tracker during his formal remarks in the state Senate chamber at the newly elected Legislature’s swearing-in.
“I think it’s vulgar, I think it’s vicious, and I think it’s vile to me and my family,” he said of the Democratic Party dispatching a tracker to film him.
It is also not the first time LePage has implied violence. In 2010, he told a Maine Public anchor he was “about ready” to punch one of the news network’s reporters.
Maine Republican Party Executive Director Jason Savage defended LePage, saying the former governor was upset that the staffer had not respected his personal space and gotten very close in a “sneaky” manner.
“There are few Maine elected officials who have faced as many threats as Paul LePage,” Savage said.
Savage said LePage’s upbringing in an abusive home put him under a “different level of personal threat” compared to most people. The cameraman almost bumped into LePage as he tried to walk over a mud puddle, Savage said.
The GOP director also brought up the near-fatal stabbing of author Salman Rushdie last week and the attempted stabbing of a Republican candidate for governor in New York, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, last month.
“Recording candidates is a normal facet of modern politics, but we do not advise anyone recording candidates to get this close or approach people in a sneaky manner,” Savage said.