Youngkin has no business stumping for racist politico in Maine

September 7, 2022 12:01 am

Former Gov. Paul LePage walks with supporters to the Maine State House in early 2022 to turn petitions to run for governor. (Maine Beacon)

I wish Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin would decide what type of leader he wants to be regarding race. His mixed signals could give you whiplash. 

A few weeks ago, with tons of fanfare, Youngkin announced a unique partnership that will pump resources and attention to Petersburg, a majority-Black, long-struggling city of 33,000 people just south of Richmond. It’s a hopeful moment for a place that’s witnessed lots of despair.  

I wrote that, despite the obvious politics involved in the partnership, the people living in Petersburg simply want results and welcome the help.  

Yet on Wednesday, the Republican guv with less than a year in office will stump for former Maine Gov. Paul LePage, whose racist comments and violent threats against perceived opponents have drawn national attention since at least 2016. This is the latest out-of-state trek for Youngkin, who’s continuing to burnish his national profile.  

More on the unrivaled “charm” of LePage later. 

Youngkin’s double-dealing approach toward people of color is all his, however. The Washington Post recently chronicled his litany of contradictions:  

He’s gone to historically Black colleges to tout his plans for lab schools, but he crusaded against the concept of “racial equity” in education policy.  

He seems to get downright squeamish about the concept of equity, in fact, when it comes to acknowledging laws, practices and customs that have favored White people in Virginia and nationwide. Witness the fact that his first executive order banned critical race theory, even though the study of structural racism wasn’t part of Virginia’s K-12 public school curriculum. 

Youngkin has worked with Black ministers. But he appointed a state health commissioner, Dr. Colin Greene, who said he felt discussing racism alienates White people. African-Americans, who are affected by biased treatment and disparate health outcomes, were outraged.  

(In one notable example nationally, a Black doctor who later died of COVID-19 said a White physician had downplayed her complaints of pain. Dr. Susan Moore had been treated in a suburban Indianapolis hospital, and her comments were posted on Facebook.) 

The Post article included other examples, too, of Youngkin’s disjointedness. 

I get it: Pandering to a sizable part of the electorate has its advantages. Focusing on cultural issues, including public education, helped catapult Youngkin to the governor’s chair. So did his decision to play coy, during the Republican nominating process, about whether he accepted the fact Democrat Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election. Donald Trump had lied repeatedly about the outcome, and his followers demanded candidates accept that lie too. 

This stumping for LePage, though, isn’t even necessary. Youngkin could burnish his conservative bona fides and continue to thrust his name in front of voters around the country without supporting a bigot and a bully.  

Maybe you don’t know much about Maine, whose population of 1.3 million residents is much smaller than Virginia’s, or LePage, a former two-term governor who’s running for the top job again in the Northeastern state. Unless you’re eating a Maine lobster, you probably don’t care. 

There’s no excuse for Youngkin to be ignorant, though, of the oft-unhinged racist he’s going to bat for. Youngkin could’ve easily passed on this trip and saved his powder for a more deserving Republican. 

LePage’s “greatest hits” are a mixture of racist tropes and other lies. He said more than 90% of people arrested for drug-trafficking in Maine, which is 94% White, were Black or Hispanic. The claim wasn’t true, at least not according to the statistics he provided in his binder.  

The former governor also called Black and Hispanic people “the enemy” and said that many out-of-state drug traffickers passing through Maine “impregnate a young White girl before they leave.”  

The latter claim is especially sinister given the history of lynchings of Black men in this country – often following false accusations of rape.  

He left a threatening voicemail back then for a Democratic state legislator. LePage said he longed for the days when he could have killed the Democrat in a duel.  

This year, on the campaign trail, LePage was at it again. He threatened to “deck” a Democratic Party staffer who the candidate said was getting too close to him. 

Great lesson, Mr. LePage, for the children. Resort to violence to settle differences. 

The Maine Democratic Party said the person recording the video is a staff research associate. Political parties often videotape their opponents, as former Sen. George Allen knows all too well from a 2006 incident.  

Youngkin, when questioned last week about why he was heading to Maine to support LePage, told The Washington Post, “What I’m trying to do is help Republicans win.” He said he wasn’t aware of any controversy about the Maine politician’s rhetoric.  

Such ignorance strains credulity. The public record on LePage is easy to find. Just do an internet search.  

Or have your aides do it if you’re busy trying on the latest red vest – 2022 edition.  

Youngkin should’ve sat this one out. Either he wants to help Black and brown people. Or the guv wants to use them as props and scapegoats.  

He can’t have it both ways. 


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Roger Chesley
Roger Chesley

Longtime columnist and editorial writer Roger Chesley worked at the (Newport News) Daily Press and The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot from 1997 through 2018. He previously worked at newspapers in Cherry Hill, N.J., and Detroit. Reach him at [email protected]