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AUGUSTA, Maine — Critics of Governor Paul LePage failed to muster support for a vote Thursday on an independent investigation that could have led to impeachment for alleged abuse of power.

LePage responded by calling the impeachment effort nonsense and foolishness.

A group led by Democratic state Representative Ben Chipman of Portland wanted to punish the brash and outspoken Republican governor for pressuring a charter school operator into rescinding a job offer to Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves.

But impeachment supporters were unable to overcome a Republican effort to indefinitely postpone discussion.

LePage was defiant afterward, issuing a statement in which he described the impeachment attempt as ''a political witch hunt that had absolutely no merit.''

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''While some members of the Legislature were obsessing for months over this foolishness, I have been working on the real issues that matter to the Maine people,'' LePage said.

He declined to leave his office to meet with reporters, and he tweeted that it was ''business as usual.''

House lawmakers voted 96-52 to indefinitely table debate after House Republican leader Ken Fredette introduced a motion to preempt any action on the impeachment order.

After the vote, a group of outraged LePage critics shouted ''shameful!'' and ''dereliction of duty!'' from the gallery. A security detail quickly removed them.

Eves left the House chambers Thursday to avoid a conflict of interest.

Afterward, Eves blamed the governor's actions for creating an ''extremely sad day in our state's history.''

''The governor has certainly created an environment where legislators are looking over their shoulders when they're casting votes,'' he said. ''We are better than this.''

LePage is known for a blunt style and off-the-cuff remarks that get him into trouble.

He was criticized last week after saying out-of-state drug dealers with names like ''D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty'' sell heroin in Maine and ''half the time they impregnate a young white girl before they leave.''

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