LePage Doubles Down on 'Pete the Carpenter'
Pete Harring, perhaps better known as Pete the Carpenter, is a Tea Party leader, owner of the Maine Refounders Web site, and one of the angriest and most inflammatory people in Maine politics.
He's also a part of Governor-elect Paul LePage's Transition Advisory Team, which, according to a post by George Smith here at Down East "will interview candidates for administration positions in state agencies." LePage announced Tuesday at a press conference that the advisory team members themselves will also be eligible for these positions.
This isn't the first time that Harring, an unemployed carpenter, has played a prominent role within LePage's circle. Harring and his organization have been strong supporters of LePage and were instrumental in the grassroots effort that saw LePage win the Republican primary. On the night of the general election, then-Mayor Lepage gave Harring the honor of leading his assembled supporters in the Pledge of Allegiance.
But Harring hasn't, to say the least, practiced the kind of political decorum that one usually sees among campaign aides and administration policy advisors. His Web site, public remarks, and his own online posting history are rife with comments on the extreme fringe of political discourse.
When Harring's appointment was announced, the Maine People's Alliance, an organization I work for, called for his removal from the transition team because of his history of extreme and sometimes violent online postings.
Later that day, the LePage team responded: They will not be rescinding Harring's appointment.
"He's got an important viewpoint and he represents the frustrations of thousands of Mainers," said LePage spokesman Dan DeMerritt, quoted by MPBN. LePage's team also sent out a statement to reporters with further support from DeMerritt and a quote from Harring himself:
"People are angry and frustrated. I am a carpenter working hard to get people involved. My blog posts and speeches come from my heart and are not meant to offend anyone. If they make people think, I am doing my job."
I, obviously, believe that giving this kind of person a prominent position is a mistake for the nascent LePage administration and I'm surprised, even with his history of Tea Party support, that LePage would be willing to start out his governorship on this kind of footing.
I should note that while Harring is certainly a colorful character, and seems to have drawn much of the attention in the reaction to the transition team announcement, there were other appointments announced Tuesday that shed just as much light on the policy future of the administration.
The Sun Journal, for instance, revealed today that at least four of the transition members have ties to the Maine Heritage Policy Center, an organization that promotes right-wing policies and activism. None of those connections were mentioned in the official statement.
Here's a video of Harring from a Tea Party rally just before the recent election. It's a bit toned down from his online activity, but still may not be safe for viewing at work. It contains plenty of yelling and at least one rude gesture: