Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: email@example.com
I mentioned this in the chat earlier, but thought it deserved its own post. Paul LePage, the surprise Maine Republican nominee for governor, has the most compelling biography of any candidate I've encountered this cycle. Here are the Dickensian details from his campaign Web site:
The oldest son of eighteen children in an impoverished, dysfunctional family, Paul left home at the age of eleven and lived on the streets of Lewiston for two years, making a meager living shining shoes.
At age thirteen, two families jointly "adopted" Paul. Eddy and Pauline Collins kept him busy washing dishes at the Theriault's Cafe. Bruce and Joan Myrick kept him busy hauling boxes. Bruce was a Pepsi-Cola truck driver. Later Paul worked at the Antoine Rubber Company and at a meat packing company.While attending Husson, he supported himself as a short order cook and bartender, while making time to be the editor of the college newspaper.
Getting into Husson presented a challenge in itself. Paul was brought up speaking French. Although his S.A.T. scores in math were excellent, his verbal performance was so poor that no college would accept him. It was only because Sen. Olympia Snowe's first husband Peter persuaded Husson to administer the exam in French that Paul was admitted at all. After that, his mastery of the English language and his academic achievements soared and he graduated with a BS in Business Administration in Finance/Accounting. He subsequently earned an MBA from the University Of Maine.
When LePage went ahead, Democrats at Elizabeth Mitchell's victory party actually cheered. Their thinking was that LePage, who is both a fiscal and social conservative, is too far right for the state. There's some recent history of Maine Republicans picking nominees who are too conservative -- that was the knock on Chandler Woodcock four years ago.
Still, I have to wonder whether LePage's biography might make him the best possible candidate. It's one thing for a ski mogul and former part-owner of the Boston Red Sox to argue for cuts in welfare spending (that would be Les Otten, who placed second in the Republican primary). It's another thing for someone who used to be homeless to do it.
Mitchell, by the way, also has a pretty interesting background. During the gay marriage debate in Maine, I remember her talking about growing up in the segregated South. It's not often that you have a Democratic candidate in Maine with a slight South Carolina drawl.
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