AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — The governor is now truly a politician you could get a beer with.
Republican Gov. Paul LePage drew a packed room as he served drinks as a celebrity bartender Monday evening at the Quarry Tap Room in Hallowell, outside Augusta. LePage, dressed in a black T-shirt and jeans, grinned as he leaned against the bar and took customers' orders.
"I'm a little rusty, but I'm getting used to it," said LePage, who said he used to bartend during his college days.
One dollar for every drink sold went to a foundation to help wounded veterans set up by former soldier Travis Mills, who lost his limbs in an explosion in Afghanistan.
Mills lives in nearby Manchester with his wife and daughter. His in-laws, Craig and Tammy Buck, said the family appreciates all that the LePages have done for him and other veterans.
"We've become friends, and we can't thank him enough for all he's done for us," Craig Buck said.
In 2014, Mills went skydiving with first lady Ann LePage to raise money for a veterans center and museum in Fort Kent.
Ann LePage, who spent last summer working as a waitress in Boothbay Harbor, walked around with a spread that included jalapeno cheese. She explained that the snacks were complimentary but added: "Oh, honey, nothing's ever for free!"
Some attendees said they set aside their differences with the outspoken governor for a good cause.
"It makes him human," said Jeremiah Elwell, a U.S. Marine who said he respects Paul LePage's work for veterans.
Bill Noble, of Augusta, sipped a beer near the bar and said he felt mixed, though he cast his ballot for LePage in 2014 because he "trusted Paul more."
"There are some things I wish he wouldn't say or do," Noble said.
LePage has often been criticized for his caustic comments and behavior, including leaving an obscene message on a Democratic lawmaker's voicemail, saying he wished he could challenge the lawmaker to a duel and point a gun at him, complaining about out-of-state drug dealers named "D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty" impregnating white girls and associating a rise in infectious diseases with immigrants without providing data. He has occasionally apologized but also has blamed liberals for inserting race into his comments and distorting his meaning.
Across the street on Monday, The Liberal Cup pub collected donations for Mills' foundation from those who couldn't — or declined to — squeeze into Quarry.
"It's a very liberal town, and I think there were many who did not want to go there," said Robin Dennett, who said she and her husband didn't vote for LePage. "That's OK as long we come together for the same cause."