Confict Grows at Maine Town Hall Meetings
When Governor Paul LePage first took office in Maine, he pledged to hold town hall meetings in each of Maine's sixteen counties.
I attended the first of these meetings, held in Cumberland County, and found it to have the flavor of a pro-LePage rally. (I wrote about the event here and here.) This was likely because details of the forum were announced only shortly beforehand and notice was given first to tea party groups and to subscribers to LePage's campaign email list.
Things have changed a bit since that first meeting in February. Two cabinet members on stage that day have since been forced to resign their positions, as has LePage's communications director, who helped organize the event.
The most obvious change, however, is that more recent town halls have had a much more diverse audience. Notice of the events is still going first to pro-LePage groups, but opponents of the governor are now also beginning to organize and attend in large numbers.
Progressive websites Dirigo Blue and Maine's Majority worked together to publicize and drive turnout to LePage's last two town halls in Topsham and Newcastle and opponents' numbers and message seem to now be competing with the official narratives that the administration is attempting to get across at the events.
They also liveblogged and provided a video stream of the Newcastle event.
My favorite part of the Lincoln County meeting has to be the 61%er dressed as big bird, who questioned LePage's attempt to cut funding to Maine's public broadcasting system.
If opponents of the governor continue to organize around these forums, ask difficult questions, and fact check his responses, they'll diminish the power of an important public relations tool for LePage, one of the few remaining for the governor now that he seems to have taken a back seat to Republican legislative leaders on statehouse issues.