Loading...

Mills, LePage Look Ahead to November in Maine Governor Race

June 15, 2022by David Sharp, Associated Press
Mills, LePage Look Ahead to November in Maine Governor Race
This photo combination shows Republican candidate Paul LePage, left, and Democratic incumbent Janet Mills for the upcoming Maine gubernatorial election on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. Independent candidate Sam Hunkler is also running for election. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Paul LePage, the Republican whose two terms as Maine’s governor were dominated by his offensive rhetoric and combative leadership, is seeking a political comeback.

With no opposition, LePage coasted to the Republican nomination for governor on Tuesday, setting up a fierce general election campaign against Democratic incumbent Gov. Janet Mills. The race is among just a handful of competitive governor’s contests in this year’s midterm elections.

The matchup revives a rivalry between LePage and Mills that dates to the days when he was governor and she was attorney general. LePage sued Mills for refusing to defend his administration during several political disagreements that reached a boiling point over then-President Donald Trump’s travel ban targeting several Muslim-majority countries. LePage had to pay to use outside counsel.

But this time, they are facing off in a dramatically different political climate.

LePage moved to Florida after leaving office in 2019 but returned a year later and decided to mount a third campaign. He has the full backing of the Republican Party, which has allowed him to focus his energy and financial resources on the general election. Mills, for her part, is seeking reelection in a difficult year for Democrats, weighed down by President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings and widespread frustration with the party’s management of inflation and gas prices.

The campaign is emerging as a barometer of whether voters this year will be motivated by economic anxiety or political civility.

LePage used to be fond of calling himself “Trump before Donald Trump became popular,” and he retains a solid following among conservatives. A former city councilor and mayor in Waterville, he was narrowly elected governor in 2010 in a five-way race.

He won plaudits during his tenure for advancing conservative policies, including lowering the tax burden and shrinking Maine’s welfare rolls by tightening eligibility requirements and capping the length of some benefits.

But his policy agenda was often overshadowed by his penchant to offend. During a time of rising animosity toward the media, he joked that he wanted to bomb a newspaper. He told the Portland chapter of the NAACP to “kiss my butt” and dismissed the dangers of an industrial chemical by saying the “worst case is some women may have little beards.” He was considered one of the nation’s most vulnerable governors when he ran for reelection in 2014.

David Capuano, a Brunswick resident who’s not enrolled in either party, said he’s in the camp of voters who believe LePage should go away.

“This guy is a mini-Donald Trump,” Capuano said. “The man is a bully and a loudmouth. I don’t like bullies.”

Ray Richardson, a Republican and radio talk show host at WLOB in Portland, said people remember that LePage did some good things during his eight years. He said LePage is “laser-focused” on addressing new problems.

“He’s a known quantity. We were enduring good times under him,” Richardson said. “He left Maine in a good place.”

For her part, when Mills came into office in 2019, her first action was to expand Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act — something LePage had refused to do. She borrowed a Republican idea to return the bulk of a $1.2 billion budget surplus to taxpayers in the form of $850 inflationary relief checks. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, she issued an executive order requiring residents to wear masks, and she later implemented a vaccine mandate for health care workers, angering conservatives who felt their civil rights were being trampled.

LePage criticized what he described as Mills’ heavy-handed response to the pandemic, and he has repeatedly sought to link her to Biden.

“Never have we witnessed so many destructive public policies all at one time,” LePage told fellow Republicans.

At her party convention, Mills touted her fiscal stewardship and said of LePage, “We won’t go back.”

After the polls closed Tuesday, Mills issued a statement pledging to continue progress that she said was made “without the usual rancor and bitterness of politics — and all while fighting a global pandemic and achieving record economic growth.”

LePage, meanwhile, used social media on the eve of the election to say he stands for “faith, freedom and trusting the Maine people” while saying Mills stands for “power, control, mandates and Biden politics which hurt the Maine people.”

The campaign carries historic significance. Mills is the state’s first female governor, and a LePage win would make him Maine’s longest-serving governor.

The Maine Constitution prohibits a governor from seeking a third consecutive term, but a two-term candidate can run again after skipping a cycle. The last candidate to attempt that, Democrat Joe Brennan, failed to win a third term in elections in 1990 and 1994.

So far, Mills is outraising LePage more than 2-to-1, collecting $3.2 million compared to the nearly $1.5 million raised for LePage, according to campaign financial disclosures.

This year, unlike his last two campaigns, LePage won’t have the help of a big-spending spoiler to siphon votes from the Democratic candidate. LePage didn’t win a majority of the vote in his successful 2010 and 2014 campaigns when he ran against candidates who included independent Eliot Cutler, who won nearly 36% of the vote in 2010 and over 8% in 2014.

The only independent running in this year’s election is Sam Hunkler, a physician and political newcomer who has a self-imposed spending cap of $5,000.


In The News

Health

Voting

In The News

August 15, 2022
by Dan McCue
Schatz, Case and Tokuda Prevail in Hawaiian Primaries

HONOLULU, Hawaii — Blue Dog Democrat Rep. Ed Case, incumbent Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz, and Hawaii’s current Democratic Lt. Gov.... Read More

HONOLULU, Hawaii — Blue Dog Democrat Rep. Ed Case, incumbent Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz, and Hawaii’s current Democratic Lt. Gov. Josh Green won their respective primary contests on Saturday. The state’s top vote getter on Saturday was Schatz, who was serving as lieutenant governor when he... Read More

August 14, 2022
by Dan McCue
Gunshots, Suicide Roil East Capitol Street Sunday Morning

WASHINGTON - A Delaware man drove his car into the vehicle barricane at East Capitol Street and Second Street early... Read More

WASHINGTON - A Delaware man drove his car into the vehicle barricane at East Capitol Street and Second Street early Sunday morning, firing several shots into the air before turning his weapon on himself. The man has been identified as 29-year old Richard A. York III.... Read More

August 13, 2022
by Dan McCue
Alaskans to Get First Taste of Ranked Choice Voting

WASHINGTON — Alaskans heading to the polls for the state’s primary election on Tuesday will get their first, limited exposure... Read More

WASHINGTON — Alaskans heading to the polls for the state’s primary election on Tuesday will get their first, limited exposure to ranked choice voting in a special House election taking place the same day, and featuring Republicans Sarah Palin and Nick Begich, and Democrat Mary Peltola.... Read More

August 13, 2022
by Dan McCue
Cheney Continues to Fight Long Odds Heading Into Wyoming Primary

WASHINGTON —If the polls are right, this primary Tuesday will be Trump retribution day in Wyoming. By a quirk of... Read More

WASHINGTON —If the polls are right, this primary Tuesday will be Trump retribution day in Wyoming. By a quirk of the calendar and fate, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., is the last of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump following the... Read More

August 13, 2022
by Dan McCue
House Passes Inflation Reduction Act, Sends on to President

WASHINGTON — The House on Friday afternoon gave its approval to the Inflation Reduction Act, delivering a significant victory to... Read More

WASHINGTON — The House on Friday afternoon gave its approval to the Inflation Reduction Act, delivering a significant victory to President Joe Biden. The final vote was 220-207, along party lines. Four Republicans did not vote. In a tweet from Kiawah Island, South Carolina, where he... Read More

August 13, 2022
by Madeline Hughes
More Broadband Money Goes to Tribal Lands

WASHINGTON — Five Native American tribes in New Mexico received $146 million Thursday to expand broadband to their residents. “This... Read More

WASHINGTON — Five Native American tribes in New Mexico received $146 million Thursday to expand broadband to their residents. “This award will provide vital infrastructure and will allow Santo Domingo Pueblo community members to have access to critical infrastructure needed for education, telehealth and other essential... Read More

News From The Well