Governor Paul LePage has made plenty of waves in his first year in office, and has many wondering where his sometimes provocative political attitudes come from, what parts of his agenda come from personal experiences and convictions and which are opportunistic. In this two part series we ask: who is Paul LePage, what forces shaped him and his world view, who are his true friends and allies, and what sort of Maine is he seeking to create? Last week we explored his formative years, culminating in his graduation from Husson College. This week we follow his story to the present, tracing his business career and his rapid and unlikely ascension from salvage store manager to small town mayor to the highest elected office in his native state.
TAKING OFFICE Governor Paul LePage’s official portrait.
A few months before his graduation from Husson College, the Lewiston Evening Journal reported LePage had been accepted as a Peace Corps volunteer in Lima, Peru, and that he intended to go to law school when his stint ended. He would do neither. Instead, LePage proposed to a fellow student, Sharon Crabbe, whose family owned a lumber business in New Brunswick, Canada. Their engagement was announced in the Lewiston papers on July 20, 1971, and they were married less than three weeks later at the United Baptist Church in her hometown, Florenceville, just over the border from Mars Hill. At the time, he was employed by the Burroughs Company in Portland (maker of adding machines), she at the Carleton County General Hospital, a few miles from her parents' home. After the wedding they would reside in nearby Perth-Andover, a village on the Saint John River.
After LePage emerged as a leading gubernatorial candidate, anonymous bloggers and newspaper commenters questioned the timing of LePage's move to Canada, which took place as the Vietnam War raged and just as his student deferment was ending. (This past November, the governor was publicly berated at a town hall meeting in Thorndike for being a "draft dodger" by a woman whose son died serving in South Korea.) Some even questioned if the reason LePage's name wasn't on any real estate his second (and current) wife owns was because he was still technically married to Crabbe, or that he was perhaps a deadbeat dad who abandoned his Canadian family and came back to the states only after the fall of Saigon.
Despite interference from LePage's staff, we were able to establish that all of these allegations are entirely without merit. LePage's draft number — which was tied to his date of birth and assigned in the televised lottery drawing of December 1, 1969 — was 342 out of a possible 366, a number so high that from his junior year onward, LePage would have been assured he would never be drafted. Indeed, according to the Selective Service System, the highest draft number called up for LePage's cohort was 195.
WITH THE WHOLE FAMILY The official family portrait of Governor Paul R. LePage and First Lady Ann LePage; their five adult children, Lindsay, Lisa, Lauren, Paul, and Devon; their grandchildren, Nicholas and Olivia; and Baxter the dog.
LePage moved to Canada for exactly the reasons he said: he had married a Canadian woman and was offered a professional opportunity there he couldn't pass up. The new college graduate was made treasurer and general manager of Arthurette Lumber in the tiny farming hamlet of Arthurette, 12 miles east of Perth-Andover. The governor's official biography doesn't mention that this business was controlled by his new bride's family, which had been running the Florenceville-based H.J. Crabbe & Sons sawmill empire since 1946. (Today it is reportedly one of the largest private landholders in the province.) He and Sharon lived together in New Brunswick at least until 1974, and again starting in late 1975. Crabbe, who has since remarried and lives in Canada, told us they only lived in New Brunswick for "two or three years" because the business venture failed. (LePage's office did not respond on these or any other points.) They had two daughters, Lisa and Lindsay, born in 1975 and 1976.