By Dennis Hoey
Gov. Paul LePage will not enter the 2018 race for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Angus King, said LePage's former gubernatorial campaign strategist and current political adviser in a prepared statement Wednesday night.
LePage started talking publicly as early as 2015 about mounting a challenge to King, an independent who was Maine's governor from 1995 to 2003.
But in a statement issued late Wednesday, his political adviser, Washington, D.C.- based Brent Littlefield, said the Republican governor, who will turn 69 in October, feels he could better serve his constituents by remaining focused on the duties of governor.
"Governor Paul LePage has helped the State of Maine achieve the largest number of private sector jobs in history, implement the largest tax cut in state history, and implement reforms which have resulted in Maine showing a significant revenue surplus earlier this year and, while these accomplishments are great, there is more to do. Therefore the Governor will remain focused on the job at hand and not enter the United States Senate race in 2018," the statement said.
LePage's second and final four-year term runs until January 2019.
King, 73, is in his first six-year term in the Senate.
Maine's Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said in April that she is contemplating a run for governor in 2018.
If Collins runs for governor and wins, LePage has the authority to appoint a successor to serve the remaining two years of Collins' Senate term, and he could appoint himself. When asked if LePage had an interest in Collins' seat, Littlefield said he had no comment.
Littlefield was asked why the governor decided to announce his intentions now. Littlefield said the question was answered by the statement.
"He just feels there is more work to be done in Augusta," said Littlefield, who was LePage's campaign strategist during the 2010 and 2014 gubernatorial races.
While acknowledging that LePage has spent a lot of time in Washington lately, Littlefield would not directly answer a question about whether the governor is being considered for a post in President Trump's administration.
LePage appeared Wednesday in Augusta with two top Trump officials -- Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and White House counsel Kellyanne Conway. The two officials are touring the country and meeting with state leaders about ways to battle the opioid addiction epidemic.
"The (governor's) statement speaks to that. He still has a job to do in Maine," Littlefield said about possible job offers.
Littlefield said it will be up to the governor to reveal what he plans to do after his term expires.
The only announced candidate for King's Senate seat is state Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn.
Brakey released a statement Wednesday night saying, "Governor LePage is a tremendous leader for conservative principles, limiting the role of government to protect the liberty of the little guy. As he focuses on fighting for the people of Maine as our Governor, I look forward to working with him to end the reign of Angus King and restore liberty for the little guy, not only in Maine, but down in Washington, D.C."
(c)2017 the Portland Press Herald (Portland, Maine)