Maine governor draws ire after comments linking drug abuse, race

BOSTON — Leaders of two Massachusetts cities fired back at Maine Gov. Paul LePage's controversial comments linking race to the opioid epidemic and pointing to Lawrence and Lowell as the problem.
"Meth lab arrests are white. They're Mainers," LePage told the State House News Service at Monday's 40th annual Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers. "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."

Former Lowell mayor and current City Councilor Rodney Elliott said in a statement sent to FOX25 urged LePage to address his own state’s drug problem “rather than kicking the can down the road.”

"Apparently [Gov. LePage] hasn't realized this is an epidemic that has been soaring for decades, affecting every state, neighborhood, family no matter what race, creed or color," Elliott said. "To me this epitomizes his ignorance and he owes the people of the Cites of Lowell and Lawrence an apology."

Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera called LePage's comments "ill-informed," claiming Maine's governor is using Lawrence and Lowell as "scapegoats" for a nationwide epidemic.

“The opioid crisis and the drug crisis in our communities is really serious, and we don't have time for this type of nonsense of name-calling and demonizing of people,” Rivera said. “I'm sure that the people of Maine would rather have their governor talk about how they can add more treatment beds and more detoxes and more counseling, instead of picking on a small city in Massachusetts.”

LePage, who has stirred up months of controversy with his inflammatory remarks, ducked out of a news conference at the end of Monday’s event, leaving questions for Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, who wouldn’t comment specifically on LePage’s words, but reiterated his message about opioid abuse.

“This issue knows no neighborhood,” Baker said. “It knows no race, it knows no class. It's as pervasive as anything I've ever seen in my 30 years of health care.”