AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Attorney General Janet Mills ended months of speculation when she announced Monday that she will run for governor in 2018.
Mills, 69, a Farmington native who still lives in the town, announced her candidacy early Monday afternoon. She said in an interview with the Bangor Daily News that she intended to file paperwork Monday with the Maine Ethics Commission, making her candidacy official.
Mills said Maine is seeking a leader to help mend relationships in the state’s fractured political landscape and described herself as a problem-solver, not a partisan operative.
“I hear from people all across the state who really want leadership that unites people and doesn’t divide them,” Mills said by phone.“Government in our state is polarized and very hotly divided. The budget debacle of recent weeks is reflective of a failure of leadership at the top level.”
As attorney general, Mills has been involved in a number of high-profile cases, ranging from suing a major credit ratings agency after the 2008 economic crisis and using the $21.5 million in proceeds to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. In 2016, with the proceeds from a separate lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies, Mills purchased thousands of opioid overdose antidote doses and distributed them to police departments throughout Maine.
This year, she joined a lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s administration over some of its environmental proposals and in June, threatened to sue the administration if it revokes the national monument designation made by President Barack Obama in the Katahdin region.
She also has clashed often with Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who has accused Mills of using her position for partisan purposes. Mills rejected that claim.
“My life and career is built on problem solving,” she said. “I’ve made my mark in many areas of the state and public policy. Whether they’re moderate, progressive or otherwise, people know where I stand on particular issues but people know they can come and talk to me.”
Mills said she has the experience and reputation to attract support from Democrats, independents and some Republicans.
“We need a candidate who can win the general election,” said Mills.
Mills, a longtime district attorney and former Democratic lawmaker, joins what could be a crowded primary field. Sanford attorney Adam Cote, lobbyist Betsy Sweet of Hallowell, and Patrick Eisenhart of Augusta have all filed to run for governor as Democrats. Former House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick has been touted as a potential candidate as well.
Mills was first elected Maine’s attorney general in 2008 when Democrats held majorities in both chambers of the Legislature. She was ousted from the position in 2010 after LePage was elected and Republicans took the majorities, but returned two years later. She was re-elected in 2016 in a closed-ballot election. She is the first woman to be Maine’s attorney general and if elected would be the state’s first woman governor.
Mills was first elected as district attorney for Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford Counties in 1980 and was re-elected three times. She lost in the Democratic primary in for Congress in 1994 and was first elected to the Maine House of Representatives in 2002. She is a graduate of Farmington High School and holds degrees from the University of Massachusetts Boston and the University of Maine School of Law.
Mills has hired Michael Ambler as her campaign manager. Ambler has worked on a number of campaigns across the country, including as an intern for U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree’s re-election bid in 2012. In 2016, he managed Democrat Ro Khanna’s successful campaign to represent a congressional district from Silicon Valley in California.
Maine Republican Party Chairwoman Demi Kouzounas said in a prepared statement Monday afternoon that Mills is “another career politician running for higher office with no experience or understanding of the issues Maine people or small businesses face.”
Mary Mayhew, LePage’s former health and human services chief, is the most prominent Republican to file for the race, although others have been rumored to be interested.
Independent Maine Treasurer Terry Hayes, a former Democratic lawmaker from Buckfield, has filed to run in the November 2018 general election.
Mills said she will balance her campaign with her job as attorney general, which she said she does not intend to vacate before her term ends.