AUGUSTA. Maine aEUR" Maine's governor race will feature three-way competition that focuses on two long-standing rivals, the incumbent Democratic Governor. Janet Mills, former Republican Governor. Paul LePage and Janet Mills have never met in person during an election.
Tuesday is Maine's primary date, but the real battle for the governorship will be in November.
Gov. Governor Her predecessor, LePage is a conservative, hard-charging conservative. His second term ended after numerous controversies that made national headlines.
Mills, Maine's attorney general during most of his terms, was often challenged by LePage's insatiable desire to test the limits of his authority.
LePage is trying to nationalize the race, just as he did in the five-way contest of 2010. He's focusing on inflation and linking Mills to President Biden.
Mills tried to reduce inflation concerns by introducing a proposal that would return nearly 60% of the state’s surplus to 858,000 Maine tax filers through direct payments. Although the proposal was supported by overwhelming bipartisan support in the legislature, LePage pushed for income tax cuts. He called the payments a gimmick to purchase votes in November.
Mills is also positioning her reelection campaign as a fight against LePage's aggressive politics and theatrics. This included blocking voter-approved bonds, Medicaid expansion, and pushing Republican loyalists to organize a government shut down in 2017, aEUR" Maine’s first since nearly three decades.
Sam Hunkler is a well-known independent who admits that he has undefined and malleable policy positions. He is also on the ballot.
Mills has not campaigned but is ahead of LePage in campaign money. The Republican has not been a prolific fundraiser, and he has won all of his elections. The race will be open to outside groups such as the Republican Governors Association or the Democratic Governors Association. Both groups plan to route their influence campaigns through local committees in a state that is often suspicious of outsiders and campaign spending.
Although public polling is not often done, recent surveys indicate a close race with Maine's persuasable and independent voters possibly deciding the winner. Surveys show strong Republican support of LePage, who is a well-known figure in the GOP that is dominated by Trump supporters. Trump's former governor was his state campaign chairman in 2020. However, he hasn't mentioned the former president in a rebranding effort to win over the independent voters who voted against Trump two years ago and made Biden the statewide winner.
Mills has governed as a centrist, refusing to raise taxes and opposing some progressive initiatives in the Democratic-controlled legislature. Some of her positions, such as opposition to a broad initiative that would have recognized Maine's Native American tribes sovereignty, have upset activists on her left flank.
Mills also supports abortion rights. This could help close a gap with LePage if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Maine voters rarely unseat incumbent governors. It happened in 1966.