An Open Letter to Governor Paul LePage

Dear Governor Paul LePage

My name is Evangelia Suleiman and I am a nineteen-year-old freshman studying and residing at the University of Maine. It’s important that you know that I have held a fascination with both politics and government and in fact so much so that I have decided to double major in both political science and journalism. In addition, I’ve been involved with politics both on and off-campus, and to a certain degree, I still am which has allowed me to stay informed and by correlation, inform others. 

This time in 2020, you came to my campus to speak and when my friends told me that news, I perked up. To be clear, I do not consider myself a Republican, nor do I count myself as one of your supporters because, in all honesty, I don’t agree with the vast majority of your policies and decisions. However, that being said, I still value hearing what the other side has to bring to the table and I fundamentally believe that listening to other peoples’ ideas and opening up your mind to those is important in regards to the education and understanding of our political landscape. I am a strong believer in bipartisanship and I think it is a necessary part of a productive political climate to understand and respect both sides of the aisle, even if you agree with one side or the other, lie in between the two or fall somewhere in the, not at all category. 

In order for you to understand where I am coming from, it’s important for me to provide you with context. You were the Governor of Maine for eight years and throughout the duration of your time in office, you have made numerous controversial and even scandalous remarks and decisions that have left me with a multitude of questions as a constituent of yours. 

For example, I was nearly eleven when you turned down invitations to two different Martin Luther King Day celebrations sponsored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) both in the name of scheduling matters, and them being a “special interest group.” This was only a matter of moments before you preceded to say that the NAACP could “kiss (your) butt,” and your decision and words were all anyone talked about for months. I remember hearing about it on the news, at school, and even at the dinner table -- my parents were never the type to shy away from politics even when I was young and only just beginning to understand the role and the importance held by players, such as yourself, within politics in its entirety. 

My first question to you is, I understand declining invitations as you can’t attend everything however why did you think that response, in particular, was appropriate? The NAACP has done a lot of notable hard work for racial minorities. This organization has fought tirelessly for numerous racial minorities, especially African Americans, to push for equality in all aspects of their lives. Their organization was front and center in the battle for the integration of schools during the Civil Rights movement, proving that the work this organization does both calls for and cultivates permanent change in our society. When you turned down an invitation from them and told them to “kiss (your) butt,” you told them that their hard work doesn’t matter. To me, that is the equivalent of telling the NAACP that, frankly, you don’t care about the lives of African Americans as much as you care about those of white people.

To add insult to injury, according to the Portland Press Herald, you defended yourself by saying, “My son is black, so they can do whatever they’d like about it.” This factor was, and still is, barely relevant nor does it serve as a justification for your actions and statements. Your proximity and familial relationship to one person of Jamaican descent does not exempt you from implicit racial bias. In truth, it is your actions, which determine whether or not the lives of racial minorities are better or worsened by policies, that determine whether or not you are a racist. To put it simply, you could have a thousand African American and/or Carribean family members and friends, while simultaneously working against them so just because you have the one, doesn’t mean it provides a justification for you as you execute the actions of the other. 

A few years after the dust seemed to settle, 2016 came around. It was a hallmark year of political controversies with -- the presidential election fast approaching, as a reality television host was running against the former Secretary of State. As Political scientists and other experts noted, tensions were higher than ever and in addition to the political environment at this time, It is important to note that you were nearing the last years of your second term as governor. As a result, your relevance as a political figure began to fade which proved problematic if you were to attempt to take office again, you needed to be relevant and trending 

Then, your voicemail got leaked and the voicemail I’m referring to is the one in which you threatened a Democratic lawmaker from Westbrook, Drew Gatteine, and referred to him with anti-gay slurs, simply because you were angered by the fact that he had called you a racist.

Governor LePage, my second question for you is, was this voicemail an attempt to regain some sort of relevance in the political sector? In hindsight, it really does seem like this was the case somewhat proven by the quote by you from Maine Public Broadcasting Network to, “make this (voicemail) public,” because you were, “after (him).” The voicemail made both local and national news with well known Political commentators drawing their attention to you such as Rachel Maddow, who publicly called you out for your childish behavior on her nightly television show!

Now let’s look closely at one of your votes during your career that so clearly should have been a yes, yet for some reason, you voted no. Let me ask you, do you remember vetoing LD 912 in 2018? Now, you do realize this bill, which was approved by both the Maine State House and the Maine State Senate, would have made conversion therapy illegal one year sooner, right? 

This leads me to my next question: what was going through your head when you vetoed this bill, Governor LePage, because, with this, you could have saved a significant amount of lives. With your single vote in support, you could have prevented people from hating themselves for being born homosexual and/or identifying themselves as members of the LGBTQ+ community. To me, this is a no brainer, so why didn’t you take the opportunity to support a bill that so clearly only benefits the members of your constituency? Were you thinking about a parent’s selfish desire to abuse their child or a therapist’s right to manipulate an innocent youth into hating themself for how they choose to identify in this world? 

Maybe I’m wrong. You may just have a deep-seated hatred for anyone who isn’t straight, cisgender, or white. As a matter of fact, I believe this truly is the case and the reason behind your actions and statements. However, I also believe that you can’t admit that to yourself because you’re too self-righteous and egotistic to accept constructive criticism in regards to the justifications you associate with your decision making and in addition, you would never use that criticism to better yourself. 

Thankfully, whatever served as the reason to veto the bill did not sway or influence the Governor after you and when Governor Mills took office in 2019, she was able to clean up most of your messes. She worked with other politicians in both the State House and Senate to right your wrongs and she put her support behind passing a new bill, LD 1025, which banned the horrid practice of conversion therapy for minors altogether.

On an ending note, I recently read an article by a publication called, “The Hill, in which you told the reporter that you were thinking of running for governor again in 2022. With that, I would like to ask you one final question: if you win the 2022 gubernatorial election, will you use your power and privilege to do better for your constituents, or will you repeat history and make the same mistakes again?

Sincerely,

Evangelia Suleiman