- Associated Press - Thursday, May 8, 2014

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - “Fringe” liberal politicians who run the state’s Democratic party are to blame for pervasive government gridlock, Maine Gov. Paul LePage told Portland business leaders Thursday.

LePage spoke to the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce about education, welfare fraud and business growth, all of which he said were hampered by partisanship in state politics. He also faulted Democrats in the state House for rejecting changes to the state’s welfare system last month.

LePage, a Republican, is in the midst of a re-election campaign against Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud and independent Eliot Cutler, both of whom have accused him of fostering the conflict in state government.

LePage said Thursday that he is willing to work with Republicans and Democrats, but added that “fringe” liberals who run the state’s Democratic party are unwilling to work with him. Democrats control both houses of the Legislature.

“We can make headway with Democrats, we can make headway with Republicans,” LePage said. “But we cannot make headway with liberals. They will not do it.”

LePage criticized state Senate Democrats for opposing his plan to offer tax breaks to businesses and workers the right not to pay union dues and specifically accused Senate President Justin Alfond, who represents Portland, for opposing efforts that LePage said would create jobs.

Alfond, who was not at the speech, later said LePage’s address was tantamount to a campaign speech designed to win favor with the business community. He accused LePage of being the source of gridlock and combativeness in state government.

“Most of the time he just goes out and tries to attack anyone that disagrees with him and his initiatives,” Alfond said. “It’s not way for the chief marketer of our state to lead.”

LePage, who was elected in 2010, also told the crowd that “ideologues who are progressive and liberal” have halted his attempts to attract businesses, expand charter schools, and combat drugs.

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