PORTLAND, Maine — Facing an impeachment effort, Gov. Paul LePage said Tuesday he'll skip the traditional State of the State speech to a joint session of the Maine Legislature.
LePage told WVOM-FM in Bangor that it'd be "silliness" for him to face lawmakers just a couple weeks after some of them tried to impeach him.
Instead, he said, "I'll send them a letter and call it a day."
Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves accused the governor of manufacturing another controversy and shirking his responsibilities.
"Hard-working people of Maine show up to do their jobs and the governor should do his. Maine people deserve to hear the governor's vision for the state and his proposed solutions," Eves said in a statement.
But others were sympathetic. "I can't say I blame the governor. Liberals in the House of Representatives have been playing political games, distracting lawmakers from addressing real issues by raising the specter of impeachment," said Sen. Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls.
LePage has delivered the annual address to the Legislature since his first term but there's no requirement for a formal speech. The Maine Constitution says only that the governor "shall from time to time give the Legislature information of the condition of the state."
There's historical precedent for both Maine governors and U.S. presidents to deliver their annual addresses to lawmakers in writing, said Peter Steele, the governor's communications director.
And other governors have skipped the addresses, as well.
In Kentucky, Gov. Matt Bevin decided to skip the State of the State this month since he's going to be delivering a budget address later this month.
LePage's decision comes as the possibility of impeachment casts a cloud over proceedings in the Statehouse in Augusta.
Some lawmakers support a formal rebuke or censure of the governor for pressuring an organization to rescind a job offer to Eves. But a small group in the Democratic-controlled House plan to press Thursday for an independent investigation that could lead to impeachment.
An impeachment order would be unprecedented and likely short-lived since it would hit a roadblock in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Senate President Michael Thibodeau, a Republican, said previously that Mainers want lawmakers to stop fighting and to move on.
As for the speech, Thibodeau said it's the governor's prerogative to decline to deliver the address in person, but he also noted that the governor would be missing out on an opportunity to lay out his priorities not just to lawmakers "but to all Mainers."