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Combative Maine governor sparks firestorm with Vaseline jab

By Dave Sherwood

BOWDOINHAM, Maine (Reuters) - Maine's Republican Governor, Paul LePage, touched off a round of criticism on Thursday when he made a vulgar remark about a Democratic state senator.

LePage said during a television interview that Senator Troy Jackson, with whom he has sparred recently over budget issues, "claims to be for the people, but he's the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline."

The remarks followed LePage's promise, at an Americans for Prosperity rally in Augusta, the state capital, to veto a $6.3 billion, two-year budget. Democrats criticized LePage's unwillingness to compromise on the bipartisan budget, which last week passed with two-thirds majorities in both the Maine House and Senate.

The Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives immediately blasted the remark

"LePage's language today crosses a new line - even for him," House Speaker Mark Eves said. "I would not want my children to hear these vulgar comments from the highest official in our state on the evening news."

LePage's office dismissed the criticism as a distraction from important budgetary issues.

"This wasn't the first time that expression had been used in the State House," Samantha Warren, a spokeswoman for the governor, told Reuters. She said LePage's words reflected the governor's frustration with a budget that raised taxes.

"That's where we should be focusing our time right now, and not on these comments," Warren said.

Jackson called the comments "inappropriate, but nothing new," and said they reflected the governor's attitude that if "you're not 100 percent with him, then he doesn't want to deal with you.

"Unfortunately, that's not the way government works," he added.

(Editing by Scott Malone)