Republican nominee for governor Paul LePage, left, points a finger after threatening to "deck" a tracker videotaping him as he stands next to supporters during a campaign appearance in Madawaska on Aug. 14. Credit: Courtesy of the Maine Democratic Party

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When Paul LePage came back from his Florida home to again run for Maine governor, he portrayed himself as a changed man. But in threatening to hit a person taping him at a political event, it appears the new LePage is the old LePage.

And so it’s likely that, if LePage were to return to the Blaine House, he’d revive the same name-calling, erratic acts and  disrespect for others that characterized his governorship and undermined his ability to work even with members of his own party.

Besides what it reveals about LePage’s readiness to move from annoyance to threats, this incident also demonstrates how intimidation and violence can be intertwined with dishonesty.

LePage threatened a tracker as footage has been showing him and his campaign misinforming voters.

For instance, LePage made the incendiary and blatant lie that Gov. Janet Mills “changed” the status of possession of the dangerous opioid fentanyl from a felony to a misdemeanor. No such change in state law was made. We learned about this lie from audio captured at a campaign appearance.

LePage falsely stated Mills spent less on education than he did. In fact, Mills met the state requirement to fund 55 percent of local education costs and LePage did not.

He’s said “there isn’t a tax Mills won’t increase.” She hasn’t increased taxes.

At this year’s Maine Republican convention, LePage claimed Maine had “the worst recovery of any state in America.” However, as News Center Maine noted, while “LePage reportedly cited the U.S. Bureau of Labor when making this statement … according to the department’s website, in the last year Maine had better economic recovery than seven states and Washington, D.C.”

Moreover, the state’s rainy day fund is the biggest ever and unemployment in Maine is just 2.8 percent, lower than before Mills took office.

And LePage not only has long asserted — without any evidence — that there’s widespread voter fraud in Maine. He’s revived these lies in the last few months.

Misinformation can be dangerous.

As we’ve seen with former President Donald Trump, lies amp up the MAGA movement. The assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was driven by the Big Lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

Besides the danger to public safety from violence, threats and intimidation tied to lies, political dishonesty is harmful to our democracy. It’s a hallmark of authoritarianism to construct false realities to serve a party or leader.

Yet we’re continuing to face a firehose of lies that breeds distrust and threats.

Take the thoroughly debunked claim that the Inflation Reduction Act is funding an additional 87,000 IRS workers to go after middle-class Americans. As one fact-checker noted, that number is “wildly exaggerated” and funds will be dedicated to auditing wealthy people to stop tax cheats and for customer service. Just last week the Wall St. Journal reported the IRS would “first spend” “to hire people who will answer taxpayers’ telephone calls during the 2023 tax-filing season.”

But the 87,000 IRS agents lie keeps getting repeated by Republicans, including Bruce Poliquin, who is again running for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District seat.

Meanwhile, the IRS has been forced to respond to violent threats by reviewing and beefing up its security.

As the Washington Post notes, decades ago the IRS “experienced sporadic but sustained violent attacks” and now there’s evidence this is coming back. Their last major security review took place after the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people.

After this horrific act President Bill Clinton spoke at a prayer service and asked the nation to “purge ourselves” of the “forces that threaten our common peace, our freedom, our way of life.”

We must take on that task again.

Healthy democracies have honest debates about real policy differences. Those enable voters to make choices about the direction of their town, state or nation.

And certainly Maine’s gubernatorial candidates have many differences. To name a few, Mills expanded health coverage, buttressed reproductive rights and increased municipal revenue sharing, while LePage blocked MaineCare expansion even after voters backed it at the polls, cut municipal revenue sharing and long opposed legal abortion. Those and other policy differences deserve forthright, accurate discussion.

Indeed, at a time when our institutions and government agencies are under attack, it’s critical for candidates, party officials and elected officials to act responsibility and tell the truth.

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Amy Fried, Opinion columnist

Amy Fried has written about the media and politics, women in politics, Maine and American political culture, and political activism, and works to create change through the Rising Tide Center. A political...