‘Not funny’: Governor cancels swear-in of newly elected lawmaker for political revenge

Maine Governor Paul LePage © Jonathan Ernst
It was no April Fools’ Day prank when Maine Governor Paul LePage refused to officially swear in a new state senator on Friday. Having nothing to do with light-heartedness, the decision was, the governor’s office admitted, an act of political vengeance.

Susan Deschambault, a Democrat, won a special election on Tuesday, March 29 for a state senate seat and was notified two days later that Gov. LePage, a Republican, would officially swear her in on Friday, April 1 at 9:00 am.

Unfortunately for the newly-elected Deschambault and her guests, her brothers and two friends, who all drove 75 miles and showed up 10 minutes early for the ceremony, it was canceled without notice.

That Friday morning, LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett told the Bangor Daily News, “We are not doing that today. It’s not on the schedule.”

The reason? A legislative committee vote from the day before went against Gov. LePage’s hopes. Steven Webster, the governor’s pick for the Unemployment Insurance Commission, was rejected in a 7-6 vote down party lines.

“Democrats treated Steve Webster despicably and it’s unfortunate that good people get caught up in political games,” Bennett said. “Gov. LePage has not sworn her in yet. The governor has five days to do so.”

Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett said in a statement, "If this is his idea of an April Fools’ joke, it is not funny."

The governor has five days to certify an election, according to Maine’s laws. Friday was just three days after Deschambault, 68, was elected.

"I was stunned," Deschambault told NECN. "I kept thinking, 'This ain't right.'”

Deschambault chose to go to the floor of the state senate anyway, though her only seat was in the back with the rest of the public.

Ugly partisanship sat her there, but she was given a warm and cordial welcoming from the legislators when Senate President Michael Thibodeau, a Republican, caught sight of Deschambault, announcing "Senator-elect Deschambault" was in the room, according to NECN.

After she was given a standing ovation, her new colleagues lined up to shake her hand.