Mills elected for second term as Mainers reject LePage’s comeback bid
Gov. Janet Mills was reelected Tuesday, besting former Gov. Paul LePage in a victory that served as a repudiation of the Republican challenger’s legacy of slashing government and social safety net programs, making racist comments and setting Maine back in the fight against climate change.
Mills, a Democrat who was first elected in 2019, won comfortably, receiving 55.2% of the vote. LePage — who served as Maine’s governor from 2011 to 2019 — garnered 42.96%. Independent candidate Sam Hunkler got 2.02%, with 82.7% of precincts reporting.
The result continues a trend in Maine of incumbent governors winning reelection, as the last time a sitting governor lost was in 1966.
“Tonight the people of Maine sent a pretty clear message, a message that we will continue to move forward, not go back,” Mills said Tuesday night. “We will continue to fight problems, not one another.”
A centrist Democrat who has sometimes frustrated progressives with vetoes of their priorities, Mills emphasized her support for reproductive health care during her campaign for a second term and hammered LePage over his long history of opposing abortion rights, although LePage has claimed he wouldn’t change state law on the matter.
Mills also touted her administration’s work to fully fund the state’s share of local education costs for the first time (something LePage repeatedly failed to do). And she reminded voters of her decision on day one in office in 2019 to expand the state’s Medicaid program, helping 90,000 low-income Mainers get access to health care. LePage repeatedly blocked voter-approved Medicaid expansion while governor.
Mills’ reelection means that Maine will be protected against any state-level Republican effort to curb abortion rights, which advocates celebrated Tuesday,
“Maine voters have made their opinions clear with the reelection of Janet Mills,” said Nicole Clegg, senior vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund. “We won’t go back. We don’t want politicians involved in our personal medical decisions. We want abortion to be safe and legal. We want the freedom to make our own decisions about our health, our families and our futures.”
Advocates also expressed optimism that Mills’ victory and LePage’s defeat will allow Maine to continue to make progress on a litany of issues.
“I have no doubt that in her second term Janet Mills will continue to move Maine forward and work with Democrats, Republicans, and Independents — or whoever she needs to — to deliver results for Maine people,” said Maine Democratic Party Chair Drew Gattine after the announcement that Mills had won.
LePage, who moved to Florida after leaving office in 2019 only to return to challenge Mills, has had a long-running conflict with the incumbent Democrat largely stemming from his anger over her refusal when she served as the state’s attorney general to represent his administration in certain cases, including when LePage attempted to prevent some 19 and 20-year-olds from obtaining welfare benefits.
During his campaign against Mills, LePage focused primarily on economic and education issues. However, his handling of Maine’s economy as governor left much to be desired. Under his watch, Maine suffered one of the slowest economic growth rates in New England after the Great Recession and saw a steep rise in child poverty and food insecurity. Furthermore, advocates panned his education plan, arguing that it played into the right-wing, culture war-driven crusade over the issue.
As of late Tuesday night, LePage had not yet conceded the race to Mills, although he acknowledged that he faced an uphill battle.
“Right now, the election doesn’t look very well,” he said. “Are we conceding? Absolutely not. I will tell the American people and the Maine people, if heating oil is not as important as abortion, if you prefer abortion over heating oil and feeding your families, then I’m telling you I should have never gotten into politics. And I am telling you one thing right now, this winter is going to be brutal.”
LePage eventually conceded Wednesday afternoon.
Mills will start her second term as governor in January.
Photo: Gov. Janet Mills | Beacon