Maine

Democrat Janet Mills to be Maine’s first female governor

Janet Mills
AP
Janet Mills

PORTLAND, Maine — Democrat Janet Mills won the race to succeed firebrand GOP Gov. Paul LePage on Tuesday, becoming the first woman to serve as governor in Maine.

The former lawmaker and prosecutor defeated Republican businessman Shawn Moody and independent state treasurer Terry Hayes, who conceded Tuesday.

Mills pledged to usher in an era of ‘‘open doors’’ and collaboration in state government. She also vowed to change the tone after eight years of LePage’s combative style, and to fight LePage and Trump administration policies on environmental, immigration and welfare.

Advertisement

Maine has had other prominent women in politics but the state has never had a woman serve as governor.

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

She said Tuesday that she hopes her win sends a ‘‘message to the women and girls of Maine of any age.’’

‘‘There is no obstacle you cannot overcome,’’ she said. ‘‘None.’’

The gubernatorial race results in an advertising blitz, and liberal out-of-state groups outspent Republicans 3-to-1 on attack ads on behalf of Mills. Other than that, though, it was an unusually quiet campaign season that resulted in few fireworks and in little polling.

The new governor will face key decisions on the future of Medicaid expansion and marijuana retail sales, which have been delayed since voters approved them in 2017 and 2016, respectively.

Advertisement

Mills, a long-time LePage foe, wants to fight President Trump’s policies alongside other state attorneys general. She has called for more grants and loans to spur broadband projects and encourage Mainers to return to Maine and live and work remotely.

Mills said she’d reverse LePage-era cutbacks to public food assistance. She said she’ll quickly implement voter-approved Medicaid expansion that the governor has held up in court over his fiscal concerns.

The attorney general also lambasted the governor for pulling out of off-shore wind projects.

Mills fought off attacks from LePage, who has lodged unsuccessful lawsuits claiming she abused her power while in office. The attorney general says she’s fought for Maine people as an independent constitutional officer with the legal authority to determine what’s in the state’s public interest.

The entire field of candidates agrees the firebrand LePage steadied finances in an aging, rural, economically stagnant state.

Advertisement

The voting came against a backdrop of Democratic anger over the election of President Donald Trump. Democrats had an advantage over Republicans in the number of absentee ballots.

In Portland, Republican voter Josh Rent called Trump ‘‘nasty’’ and said ‘‘life doesn’t have to be this nasty.’’

‘‘I’m generally a fairly reliable Republican. This is the first time I ever voted pretty much Democrat all the way down the ballot,’’ said Rent, a small business owner in Portland.

Moddy said he lost the race and that he didn’t want to point fingers or sugar coat anything.

Moody praised his campaign supporters for knocking on doors despite blustery conditions. Moody ran on promising to continue the fiscally conservative legacy of Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

He said he thinks there was a path to victory. But Moody noted efforts in Maine and nationally to swing politics in the opposite direction.

It was an unusually quiet campaign season in which liberal out-of-state groups largely outspent Republicans on attack ads. Democrats are hoping to regain ground in the Legislature and influence upcoming political redistricting.

The new governor will face key decisions on the future of Medicaid expansion and marijuana retail sales, which have been delayed since voters approved them in 2017 and 2016, respectively.

Ranked-choice voting is being used in Maine’s federal elections Tuesday but not in the gubernatorial race, legislative races, referendums or local races.

Maine residents approved the system in 2016 after nine of the past 11 gubernatorial elections resulted in winners who had failed to get a majority of the vote.

But the system doesn’t apply to state general elections because of concerns it runs afoul of the Maine Constitution.