Two established political forces will face off in Maine’s gubernatorial race.
The state’s primaries were largely regarded as a formality as Democratic Governor Janet Mill and Republican Paul LaPage both ran for their party’s nomination unopposed.
LaPage was a two-term governor who once described himself as the “Trump before there was Trump,” per NECN. The former mayor of Waterville, Maine, LaPage won a five-way race in 2010 to become governor.
In addition to addressing welfare enrollment and decreasing taxes on residents, LaPage became known for his bombastic statements.
“Maine faces several challenges and we must work toward building a better future based on individual liberty, fiscal responsibility, and an economy which empowers everyone including our rural communities,” he said while announcing his latest campaign in July of 2021, per Fox News. “I’ve been a bit controversial in the past. Hope to clean up my act this time.”
The 73-year-old has argued that Mill’s leadership has hurt the state and that her pandemic policies damage its economy.
“Never have we witnessed so many destructive public policies all at one time,” LaPage said at the Maine Republic Convention in Augusta in April. “Drug overdose deaths doubled. Suicides increased. Children’s deaths at the hands of family members skyrocketed. Chronic medical conditions are going ignored.”
The businessman also “accused Mills of exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to seize emergency powers to implement the most restrictive mask mandates in the nation,” reports The Portland Press Herald. “He said one of the first things he would do if reelected would be to rehire – with back pay – workers whom Mills fired for refusing to get a COVID-19 vaccine.”
Mills was the attorney general during LaPage’s time in office and ultimately succeeded LaPage after he left office in 2018 due to state term limits.
“The Maine Constitution prohibits a governor from seeking a third consecutive term, but a two-term candidate can run again after skipping a cycle,” noted the Associated Press. “The last candidate to attempt that, Democrat Joe Brennan, failed to win a third term in elections in 1990 and 1994.”
The current governor beat Republican challenger Shawn Moody by less than 10%.
During her time in office, Mills expanded the state’s Medicaid program and advocated acknowledging the sovereignty of Maine’s Native American tribes. She also mandated residents wear masks during the COVID-19 pandemic and faced backlash for supporting environmental policies that hurt the state’s fishing industry.
“We have accomplished so much, but I’m running for re-election because there’s so much left to do. It’s time to invest in you, the people of Maine. You are what moves us forward, what makes us strong,” Mills said in a video announcing her campaign for reelection.
The race is expected to be contentious, with The Boston Globe describing the match-up as “a barometer of whether voters this year will be motivated by economic anxiety or political civility.”
“Mills has campaigned infrequently but leads LePage in campaign cash,” reports NPR. “However, the Republican has never been a prolific fundraiser and he has won every election he’s run in. Outside groups like the Republican Governors Association and Democratic Governors Association are expected to be active in the race.”
Current polling indicates that Maine’s more rural Second District is likely to back LaPage while its First District, which includes populous cities like Portland, would vote for Mills.