Maine governor Paul LePage is in hot water for making racially-charged comments about the heroin crisis in his state during a town hall meeting on Wednesday (Jan. 6). Drugs are coming into Maine from the outside, he said, by dealers with names like “D-Money,” and “Smoothie”:
“These are guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty—these types of guys—they come from Connecticut and New York, they come up here, they sell their heroin, they go back home,” LePage said, according to the Portland Press Herald. “Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young white girl before they leave, which is a real sad thing because then we have another issue we have to deal with down the road.”
LePage is known for incendiary statements, and has sparked outrage even among Republicans in Maine. “This is one of the most offensive statements yet from this governor,” Lance Dutson, a GOP political consultant wrote on his blog.
“LePage’s racist rants sadly distract from efforts to address one of our nation’s most pressing problems,” a Hillary Clinton campaign spokesman said in a statement.
Le Page made national news for endorsing New Jersey governor Chris Christie for president in July.
Explaining his boss’s comments, Peter Steele, a spokesman for LePage, said in a statement that “the governor is not making comments about race. Race is irrelevant.”
He added: “What is relevant is the cost to state taxpayers for welfare and the emotional costs for these kids who are born as a result of involvement with drug traffickers. His heart goes out to these kids because he had a difficult childhood, too.”
Maine has become a haven for the heroin trade, as opiates have become harder to come by in the last decade and the heroin supply is abundant. Prices for a gram can be as much as three times higher than in New York, according to the Press Herald. Seventeen percent of people arrested last year by the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency for drug trafficking were not Maine residents.