AUGUSTA, Maine — Attorney General G. Steven Rowe has been Maine’s top lawyer for nearly eight years, and he has his sights set on being Maine’s next governor. But right now he is pondering what he will do for work next month.
“I don’t know what I will be doing,” he said in an interview this week. “Because of ethical considerations, I have chosen not to talk with anyone about employment until after I leave this office. I hope I can find some legal work.”
Rowe, 55, expects he will be able to find work with a law firm, but needs a job that will give him some flexibility so he can line up support for his gubernatorial candidacy in the 2010 race.
The Democrat grimaced when asked about the federal allegations that Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich of Illinois had engaged in conspiracies and had solicited bribes, including putting President-elect Obama’s former seat in the Senate up for sale.
“We are so fortunate in Maine to have people in office who are ethical and aboveboard,” he said.
Rowe said that while he served in the Legislature from 1992 to 2000, including his last term as speaker of the House, there were always disagreements and partisan battles, but everyone was “trying to do what they thought was right.” The high-level scandals that have plagued other states have not happened here, he said.
The father of four adult children and his wife, Amanda, live in Portland, according to biographical information provided on the state Attorney General’s Office Web site.
Rowe holds a law degree from the University of Maine School of Law, a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Utah, and a bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He served as an officer in the U.S. Army and the U.S. Army Reserve and worked as a litigation counsel for UNUMProvident Corp. before becoming attorney general.
“I am proud of the accomplishments of this office,” Rowe said this week. “And I am proud of my accomplishments when I served in the Legislature.”
Rowe pointed to his support of the legislation creating the Fund for a Healthy Maine, which is where cash from the tobacco settlement is deposited every year. As attorney general, he has fought efforts to divert the fund for purposes other than health-related matters.
He was a leader in the creation of the Maine Rx legislation, which his office later successfully defended before the United State Supreme Court.
“I actually argued one case myself before the U.S. Supreme Court, which was a Clean Water Act case, and that was a high point for me both personally and professionally,” he said. “We had several cases before the court, and they were high points.”
As a member of the National Association of Attorneys General, Rowe said he participated in several multistate cases and in national efforts on prescription drugs, youth drinking and global warming.
He said legislation making it more difficult to manufacture methamphetamine in the state, improvements in the state’s stalking laws, strengthening of the state prescription drug diversion law, and enhancements to statutes concerning protection from abuse orders are accomplishments of his tenure as attorney general.
“I think we have had some accomplishments to be proud of,” he said, “but it is not just me. I have had a wonderful and talented staff. We have some very good lawyers in this office.”
Rowe said he could not think of any “low points” during his service, even though not all cases were wins. He said there are also several major cases that will still be pending when Janet Mills is sworn in as attorney general next month.
“We have been working hard to make this the best transition there has ever been in this office,” he said. “I have met several times with Janet already to bring her up to speed on cases you know about and some I can’t talk about.”
One case is a Clean Air Act suit pending in the Circuit Court for Washington, D.C., where the Environmental Protection Agency has refused California and Maine a waiver to set their own pollution standards for cars and trucks.
As he looks ahead, Rowe said he has been lining up support for his run for governor.
When asked what issues he would focus on as governor, Rowe said, “It’s the economy. We have to make the investments in our future. We have to invest in our people, in our children, and that is what I want to do.”
Rowe said the state is not investing enough in early childhood programs when most brain development occurs and that more needs to be done.
“We are spending 90 percent of education dollars on programs for children over the age of 5,” he said. “We need to spend more on those very young children as their brains are developing.”
Rowe said while he has enjoyed being Maine’s top lawyer, he believes to achieve success on the issues he considers most important to the state, he needs to be governor.
“I have had 16 years of public service,” he said. “I want to continue to serve.”