Maine Gov. Paul LePage, in Boston on Monday for a conference with other New England governors and Canadian premiers, linked the heroin and fentanyl epidemic in his state to drug dealers crossing the border from Massachusetts, as well as New York and Connecticut.
LePage also told the State House News Service that while white people in Maine are being arrested for drug crimes, they tend to be related to methamphetamines, while he said black and Hispanic offenders are responsible for the bulk of the opioid trade.
“Nobody wants to listen,” LePage told State House News Service at the Hynes Convention Center. “What I said was this: Meth lab arrests are white. They're Mainers. The heroin-fentanyl arrests are not white people. They're Hispanic and they're black and they're from Lowell and Lawrence, Massachusetts, Waterbury, Connecticut, the Bronx and Brooklyn. I didn't make up the rules. That's how it turns out. But that's a fact. It's a fact. What do you want me to lie?”
LePage previously identified Connecticut and New York as the sources of drugs entering Maine, but expanded the landscape to include the two former industrial mill cities along the northern border of Massachusetts.
Speaking to reporters following the conference on Monday, Gov. Charlie Baker repeatedly avoided responding directly to LePage's comments. He eventually told reporters that the issue knows no neighborhoods, race or class and called it pervasive.
Lowell Mayor Edward Kennedy told WBUR that LePage's comments were off-base and counterproductive.
"It would be much more productive if the governor of Maine would just work together with other communities rather than to point fingers down toward the Merrimack Valley as that being the source of his problem, or to single out a certain ethnic group," Mayor Kennedy said in a phone interview.
Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera echoed those sentiments when he told WBUR that LePage is wrong to point fingers and should focus on solutions.
With reporting by the State House News Service and the WBUR Newsroom
This article was originally published on August 29, 2016.