Lewistonites, Auburnians, and others from the surrounding area packed into an event space in the Lewiston Ramada this past Wednesday as Maine Governor Paul LePage held a town hall meeting. As one of a series of weekly town hall meetings held around the state, LePage fielded questions from his constituents for just under an hour and a half.

According to Peter Steele, LePage’s director of communications, the governor uses these meetings as a means of communicating his platform to his constituents without the threat of media bias. Steele added that the governor “isn’t asking people to agree with him, just to hear what he has to say.”

While introducing the governor, Press Secretary Adrienne Bennett expressed her and the governor’s desire “to have an open dialogue,” adding only one request: “that we all be open-minded and civil.”

These requests for open-mindedness, civility, and the willingness to hear the governor out were repeated like mantras by both LePage and his aides throughout the evening. At several moments during the meeting, Governor LePage repeatedly referenced his treatment by the media, arguing that they had failed to make good on the same requests he and his camp were making of the crowd. This reasoning was also used in response to a group of Bates students who, about fifteen minutes into the meeting, revealed signs reading “LePage: Maine’s Shame.” Then they voluntarily exited the event. “I hope you’re not Bates kids,” Lepage responded. “You’re giving the U.S. a bad name.”

Before taking questions from the crowd, the governor first gave what he described as “a quick overview of the state moving forward,” speaking on various topics important to Maine’s future. The first issue Governor LePage spoke on was the proposed minimum wage increase which will appear on Mainers’ ballots this coming November. LePage called the increase “detrimental” to the state, elaborating that “I don’t support a minimum wage, I support a living wage. I know poverty, the way out of poverty isn’t through a minimum wage, it’s through education.”

A few minutes later, the governor shifted his criticism to another 2016 Maine ballot initiative: a three percent surcharge on the income of any Mainer making more than $200,000 dollars per year, to be put towards funding the state’s education system. LePage stated his opposition to the initiative, calling it “an insult” to “people who are successful.”

The governor then shifted from the proposed initiative to Maine’s tax rates in general, arguing that they were too high to benefit Mainers. Central to LePage’s argument against higher tax rates was the notion that the people know how to spend their money better than the government does, and referenced other states like Florida, New Hampshire, and Texas, whose tax models he argued Maine should follow. “Elected officials shouldn’t try to tax you more, they should put more money in your pocket.”

Once the governor had said his piece on these issues, he opened the floor to answer questions from the audience, all of which were screened first by Bennett. This part of the meeting constituted the bulk of it. Governor LePage even stayed almost half an hour longer than he was scheduled to. Those who asked questions came from a relatively diverse background, from hardcore conservatives to one shop owner who identified himself as “very liberal.”

The meeting was not without conflict, however. After the protest by Bates students, LePage remarked on several occasions throughout the rest of the event that Bates students are “wealthy kids” who “don’t know what it means to work.” When one liberal constituent started off his question by stating that “even though I didn’t vote for you, you are my governor,” LePage cut him off, replying, “No I’m not.” The governor’s response to both these criticisms was the same: “America is a great country because you can make your own opinions, but you cannot make your own facts.”