A competition for worst governor in the Union

This week, Michigan governor Rick Snyder and Maine governor Paul LePage were, unwittingly, engaged in a heated battle over which of the two is our nation’s worst governor.

Here are their claims to the title. I’ll let you, the reader, decide:

Paul LePage

LePage doesn’t make as many headlines as he otherwise should because he is the governor of Maine instead of, say, New Jersey. The last time he made news, it was for his botched attempt to pocket veto 70 bills and subsequent insistence — over the objections of literally everyone in the state not named or working for Paul LePage — that said bills hadn’t become law. But this week, he’s earned himself national attention over his explanations for Maine’s heroin epidemic, which basically chalk the problem up to a black menace:

Said LePage, addressing the issue of drug traffickers:

These aren’t people that take drugs. These are guys that are named “D-Money,” “Smoothie,” “Shifty” — these type of guys that come from Connecticut and New York. They come up here, they sell their heroin, then they go back home. Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave, which is a real sad thing because then we have another issue that we’ve got to deal with down the road.

Pressed for an apology for comments that even most of our racist uncles would concede are pretty damn racist, LePage stood his ground. Why? Because he doesn’t owe anyone an apology, since Maine doesn’t have many black people:

But don’t worry, he definitely didn’t mean to imply that the drug dealers named “D-Money,” “Smoothie” and “Shifty” were black or brown. No, sir:

Heroin abuse is on the rise in Maine, and there are some actual ideas out there as to why that is and how to fix it. Instead of engaging with them, Paul LePage is content to blame black people. Boo this man.

Rick Snyder

LePage’s racist comments that distort the nature of a budding public health crisis may not be quite as awful as Rick Snyder’s possible willful ignorance of and failure to act on a public health emergency of his own creation.

Last year, Flint, Michigan switched the source of its water supply in order to save some money. As it turns out, the cheaper water supply was contaminated with lead. As Ryan Cooper explained in The Week:

It was immediately obvious that the water was filthy, and residents loudly protested that it was cloudy, smelled bad, and tasted worse. General Motors stopped using the water because it was literally corroding their machinery. But Snyder and his handpicked head environmental official Dan Wyant studiously ignored the problem — despite internal warnings of lead poisoning as early as July of last year — until an outside scientific study demonstrated extreme levels of lead in Flint children. In late December — over a year after the water switch — Snyder finally apologized and Wyant quietly resigned.

Snyder declared a state of emergency concerning Flint’s water this week, more than a year after citizens expressed concerns that their state government was effectively forcing them to drink poison. He has also refused to comment on when he first learned that the water was contaminated.

However, there is reason to believe that Snyder was likely aware of the issue some time ago. From NBC News:

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, via Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, via Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

But an internal email obtained by Virginia Tech researchers shows that the governor’s office knew months ago that Flint’s families had reason to be worried about the problem and the response.

“I’m frustrated by the water issue in Flint,” Dennis Muchmore, then chief of staff to Snyder, wrote in the email to a top health department staffer in July.

“I really don’t think people are getting the benefit of the doubt. Now they are concerned and rightfully so about the lead level studies they are receiving,” Muchmore said.

“These folks are scared and worried about the health impacts and they are basically getting blown off by us (as a state we’re just not sympathizing with their plight).”

Rick Snyder and the State of Michigan tried to cut a few corners to save a few dollars. In the process, it poisoned its own citizens and wound up costing itself even more money in the long run. Now, Snyder’s being cagey as to what he knew, when he knew it and how long he dragged his feet before this public health crisis of his own creation became too big to ignore. Boo this man.

So, which governor is worse? Snyder or LePage? The guy who’s embarrassed to admit that he poisoned his own citizens, or the guy who’s unabashedly blamed the poisoning of his own citizens on a racial minority.

If I had to pick, I’d go with Snyder, but I think you could make a compelling case for either.

Boo these men:


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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