Former Gov. Paul LePage said Saturday he “may have spoken out of turn” when he said in 2020 that the election was stolen by President Joe Biden, but he questioned Biden’s fitness for office. Credit: BDN Composite

SKOWHEGAN, Maine — Former Gov. Paul LePage said Saturday he “may have spoken out of turn” when he said in 2020 that the election was stolen by President Joe Biden, but then accused the president’s wife of a “power play” and questioned Biden’s fitness for office.

The comments came in an interview after a Skowhegan news conference in which the former governor continued to hammer Gov. Janet Mills on a permit dispute between her administration and the owner of a dam powering operations at a local paper mill. The Democratic governor faces her Republican predecessor in a Nov. 8 election also featuring independent Sam Hunkler.

This week, LePage said Biden won the election “fair and square” but rejected the premise of a News Center Maine interviewer’s question that noted he challenged the outcome of the 2020 election. However, he repeated former President Donald Trump’s false claims of a “stolen election” in an interview with WGAN after the race was called for the Democratic president.

On Saturday, the former governor was more conciliatory on that issue, saying he was “probably angry” during the interview and “may have spoken out of turn.” LePage said he rejected theories from Trump and his ardent supporters that millions of votes had been illegally cast.

But he went on to say Biden is “not really in a position to be running the country” and that he believed the presidency is “more of a power play from [Biden’s] wife” and he doubted the president can handle the threats caused by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I do not believe that he is not a legitimate president,” he said. “I just believe that he’s not good for the country right now.”

A White House spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on LePage’s remarks, which ramped up past assertions on this topic. At a debate earlier this month hosted by Maine Public and the Portland Press Herald, the former governor said Biden was “clearly not capable of running the country” and said he was not sure “who’s pulling the strings.”

Arguments from others on this topic have run the gamut from policy to Biden’s acuity after the 79-year-old was the oldest president ever to be sworn in. Last year, Republican senators portrayed his chief of staff as a kind of shadow leader and one congressman sent the president a request to take a cognitive test. Biden has rejected concerns about his fitness for office.

LePage has downplayed his history of challenging elections, saying in the first debate that he has “never rejected any election.” But he wanted 2016 ballots to be hand-counted while wavering on certifying results. Two years later, he wrote “stolen election” on the certification of Democrat Jared Golden’s ranked-choice voting win over then-U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin.

Poliquin has a rematch with Golden and independent Tiffany Bond this year. LePage said his 2018 complaint was over ranked-choice voting not delivering on promises made by proponents, including one cited by conservatives that candidates can win without true numeric majorities.

Both LePage and Poliquin are putting costs at the center of their campaigns with Mills and Golden, with the regulatory fight over the Shawmut Dam in Fairfield as a key cudgel for the former governor. He has raised the specter of the state forcing the dam’s closure and endangering investment in the Sappi mill over fish-passage concerns, while Mills criticized the dam’s owner this week for “playing politics” and said the dam and mill will remain.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...