Maine lawmakers killed a motion on Thursday that would have marked the first step toward impeaching Republican Governor Paul LePage, whose blunt comments have often infuriated adversaries.
The motion, presented on Thursday morning by eight Democrats and one independent, called for the creation of a legislative committee to investigate at least eight "allegations of misconduct" against LePage.
Lawmakers seeking LePage's ouster contended he overstepped his authority when he threatened to withhold funds last year from a nonprofit that hired a political rival, among other charges.
Legislators, including some of LePage's critics in the Democratic-controlled state House of Representatives, voted 96-52 to postpone the motion indefinitely.
"As I have said all along, this impeachment nonsense was nothing more than a political witch hunt that had absolutely no merit," LePage said in a statement following the vote.
The vote came a week after LePage drew criticism for saying out-of-state drug dealers were coming to Maine and impregnating "white girls." Critics called the comments racist, while LePage told reporters he had misspoken.
The majority of Democrats who spoke during a three hour-long House debate favored an investigation of LePage's actions, but Republicans said the allegations against LePage would set the bar for impeachment proceedings too low.
"What is going to be the standard, the threshold, next time that someone is disgruntled with the actions of a chief executive?" asked Republican state Representative Ken Fredette.
LePage has acknowledged threatening to withhold funding from a charter school for troubled youths, after it hired House Speaker Mark Eves, a Democrat, as president.
LePage said he felt Eves was unqualified and had been offered the job as a political favor.
Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, a Democrat often at odds with LePage, reviewed the charges but found no basis for a criminal investigation.
Since taking office in 2011 as a favorite of the conservative Tea Party movement, LePage has often engaged in a war of words with political opponents. He has called Eves a "hack" and often refers to the legislators as "corrupt."
No Maine governor has ever been impeached. Nationally, state officials are rarely impeached.
Most recently, in 2009, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was removed from office for attempting to sell then President-elect Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat for cash.
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