Maine’s Democratic governor announced Tuesday she will seek a second term in office.
The announcement from Janet Mills sets up a possible contest against former Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican and a rival of Mills when she served as the attorney general. Mills became the first female governor in Maine history after she was elected in 2018.
That was also the final year of LePage’s second term, but he decided last year that he would seek a return to office. The Maine Constitution limits a governor to two consecutive terms, but they can run again after sitting out a term. LePage has emerged as the leading Republican candidate this time around.
In a video announcing her campaign, Mills praised the people of Maine and the accomplishments of the past three years but said there is much left to be done.
“Through difficult and dangerous times, you have shown that Maine is stronger than we ever could have imagined. Our goals since the beginning of this unprecedented challenge have been to save lives and livelihoods, and – thanks to you – we’ve succeeded better than virtually every state in the nation,” she said. “We have accomplished so much, but I’m running for reelection 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.”
"You deserve every ounce of hard-won progress we've achieved, and you've earned all the progress yet to come," she added. "Together, we will move Maine forward."
The governor's announcement video features hand-written letters that Maine people wrote to her during the pandemic.
The Maine governor's race will be on the national radar in a year in which Democratic governors and lawmakers face tough reelection battles throughout the country. Mills has served as the state’s governor for the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic and has led the state in a time when Democrats control both houses of the Maine Legislature.
Later on Tuesday, Mills made her first major public appearance following her announcement at a Women in Leadership Panel recognizing Women’s History Month at Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor.
Mills is Maine’s first female governor and, prior to her election, was Maine’s first female attorney general.
She opened her remarks at the event, which was an official appearance and not sponsored by her campaign, by telling attendees that her message to them was “to do what you want to do, do what you can do, work hard at what you want and you can get there.”
Later, during an audience question and answer portion of the panel, Mills was asked about a hot-button political issue in Maine this week -- the rising cost of gas.
Some Republican Maine lawmakers have proposed a year-long suspension of Maine’s gas tax as prices spike amid the ongoing war in Ukraine and overall inflation.
Mills responded to the question about that issue by mentioning her a plan she is pushing for currently being considered by Maine legislators, to use money from a budget surplus to send many Maine residents a $750.00 “inflation relief” payment.
However, she also said she was “willing to look at all potential avenues of redress as immediate and efficient as we can to get money back into pocket books of Maine taxpayers.”
The announcement from Mills that she is seeking reelection was not a surprise. She has been raising money for months in anticipation of a race for a second term. As of January, she had raised more than $1.6 million, while LePage had raised a little less than $900,000.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.