Lawmakers tap Mills for state AG post

Posted Dec. 02, 2008, at 5:01 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine’s newly elected Democratic legislators settled a three-way race for state attorney general Tuesday as they nominated former prosecutor and three-term Rep. Janet Mills of Farmington for the $92,296-a-year post, assuring her of election by the full House and Senate.

No tallies were announced, but Mills won on the second ballot. John Brautigam of Falmouth, who is completing a legislative term, was eliminated on the first vote and Mills defeated Sean Faircloth of Bangor on the second balloting. Faircloth is finishing a term as House majority whip.

Earlier in the day, the Democrats nominated Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, Treasurer David Lemoine and state Auditor Neria Douglass for new terms, virtually guaranteeing all three will win re-election by the new Legislature after the members are sworn in Wednesday by Gov. John Baldacci. None of the three faced a challenger.

Minority Republicans did not plan to nominate token candidates for the three jobs, or for attorney general unless Faircloth won the Democrats’ nomination.

A former district attorney for Franklin, Oxford and Androscoggin counties who has also conducted private practice, Mills was re-elected to a fourth House term in November. Her nomination sets the stage for a vacancy in her seat. Like her two rivals, Mills has served as an assistant attorney general.

Claiming more than 30 years practicing law in the state, Mills told lawmakers before the vote that she has “appeared in nearly every courthouse in the state” as a lawyer. She also has previously trumpeted her experience as attorney of record in 150 state supreme court cases, and her experience litigating cases dealing with a wide variety of issues.

In a speech nominating Mills for the job, Sen.-elect Deborah Simpson of Auburn said Mills has “dedicated her life to the law.” Rep. Thom Watson of Bath said Mills has an “encyclopedic knowledge of Maine laws.”

With her election by the new House and Senate, Mills will succeed G. Steven Rowe, who is completing his fourth, two-year term, the maximum allowed under Maine’s term-limits law. Rowe has spoken of his interest in running for governor in 2010.

In a forum for the candidates last month, Mills said she had no plan to make any major changes if elected to be the state’s top lawyer. She listed public safety and consumer rights issues as those she feels most passionate about, and said she expects to see increases in crimes such as child abuse and fraud increase as the economy declines.

Maine is one of few states in which the attorney general is not popularly elected.

Maine’s Department of Attorney General has about 200 employees who are broken into 13 divisions dealing with such areas as child protective and support enforcement, financial crimes, civil rights and consumer protection. The department prosecutes homicides and oversees a drug task force.

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