Paul LePage wanted to take his welfare agenda to the national level in the Trump administration.
His angling to get a position leading welfare reform in Washington was one of two positions he pitched himself for in letters to former President Donald Trump, according to the Portland Press Herald.
That includes a previously unreported bid to become the chief executive officer of the Millennium Challenge Corp., an independent international aid agency within the U.S. government, the Press Herald reported.
Just a month after Trump won his Electoral College upset in 2016 — including peeling off one electoral vote in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District — LePage sent a letter to Trump pitching himself as a figure to lead welfare reform efforts at the national level, citing his experience growing up in “severe poverty,” his work “reforming welfare” in Maine and — for a time — preventing Medicaid expansion in the state, according to the Press Herald.
The following summer, he also sought the position within the Millennium Challenge Corp., writing in a letter to Trump that he was eager to take his “lifelong passion for helping the poor” to the global level, the newspaper reported.
He never got either post within the Trump administration, and a LePage campaign spokesperson told the Press Herald the former Republican governor, who is seeking an unprecedented third term in the Blaine House, had no intention of leaving office early or moving to Washington.
During his eight years in office, LePage pushed to streamline state government and reduce spending. His path to achieving that objective cut through the state’s safety net programs, from trimming the number of Mainers who receive food assistance to cutbacks at the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.
Those cutbacks — proposed and passed — became frequent points of contention between LePage and lawmakers and LePage and the public. That included instituting work requirements for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that dropped nearly 60,000 from the rolls during his tenure even as food insecurity remained higher than elsewhere in New England and capping benefits under the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, among other changes.
He also vetoed Medicaid expansion about a half dozen times and refused to implement a 2017 voter-approved referendum to open the state’s Medicaid rolls to more poor Mainers.
While LePage only appears to have officially sought those two positions within the Trump administration, he joked in May 2016 about serving as ambassador to Canada during the summer and to Jamaica during the winter. Months later Trump told a crowd in Portland that LePage had an open job offer in his administration, though that never panned out.