- Associated Press - Friday, December 25, 2015

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - The governor’s intervention to get a political foe fired from his job at a charter school has roiled the Statehouse, led to a lawsuit and cast a cloud over the upcoming legislative session.

Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves accused Republican Gov. Paul LePage of blackmail after the administration withheld a quarterly payment to employer Good Will-Hinckley as the administration exerted increasing pressure that led to his dismissal.

The political drama, which threatens to spill into the new legislative session, was voted the top story of 2015 in Maine by The Associated Press and its member news organizations.

LePage was also at the center of the No. 2 story when a legal battle was fought over dozens of his vetoes that came too late, allowing the bills to become law.

The No. 3 story focused on the state’s heroin problem, which led to several drug summits and a threat by LePage to call up the National Guard if lawmakers failed to hire more drug agents.

Rounding out the Top 10:

No. 4: A fatal slashing captured the state’s attention because the random attack happened in broad daylight in a supermarket aisle. Connor MacCalister, who pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison, told police she wanted to kill random people.

No. 5: Leon Gorman, grandson of L.L. Bean, led the mail-order company into the modern era, topping $1 billion in sales and employing more than 5,000 people. L.L. Bean stores closed for the first time in 48 years for his funeral after his death at 80.

No. 6 (three-way tie): A report linked climate change to the decline in cod in New England waters, the Republican Party launched a referendum drive to slash welfare and income taxes, and five people were shot - two fatally - during a rampage by a man in northern Maine.

No. 9: The mystery of the disappearance of an Appalachian Trail hiker two years ago was solved when a surveyor found skeletal remains in October. An autopsy concluded Geraldine Largay, of Brentwood, Tennessee, died of exposure and lack of food and water.

No. 10: A long manhunt ended when Robert Burton gave himself up to face charges in the slaying of his ex-girlfriend. The Parkman man’s capture after more than two months on the lam brought relief to the residents of Somerset and Piscataquis counties.

All told, two dozen different stories captured votes in the annual survey.

Other stories receiving votes included the death of Burt Shavitz, co-founder of Burt’s Bees; the sentencing of a man who used Facebook to lure a teen to her death; charges in a haunted-hayride malfunction that killed a teen; and charges against a Portland landlord after a fire killed six people.

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