AUGUSTA, Maine — Senate President Elizabeth “Libby” Mitchell announced Monday that she is joining the field of Democrats hoping to be elected as Maine’s next governor.
Mitchell, D-Vassalboro, enters the race with considerable name recognition. In addition to serving a dozen terms in the Legislature, Mitchell was the first woman in U.S. history to serve as both a state Senate president and speaker of the House.
Five other Democrats have filed paperwork with the Maine Ethics Commission indicating plans to run for governor. The other candidates are: Donna Dion, Rep. Dawn Hill, Eriq Manson, Steven Rowe and Rosa Scarcelli.
Four Republicans, two Maine Green Independent Party candidates and four unenrolled candidates also have filed paperwork.
A lawyer and former teacher, Mitchell said she struggled with the decision to enter the race because it meant having to forfeit running for another term as a senator and Senate president.
But she said in an interview that her experiences as Senate president during the challenging legislative session that ended in June made her confident that she has skill sets that would be valuable as governor.
Among the successes of the past session that Mitchell listed were bipartisan passage of a balanced budget that was smaller than the previous two-year budget; enactment of a tax restructuring bill that lowers Maine’s top income tax rate; and passage of major energy policy bills.
“This year I helped Maine gain a step on other states,” Mitchell said in a statement. “We are better prepared than most to emerge from the recession quickly. Now I want to lead Maine’s economy in the recovery. My entire career has prepared me for the challenge.”
Mitchell said her top campaign platforms would be job creation and retention, education and energy.
The best-known candidate among Democrats so far has been Rowe, a former attorney general. But other well-known Democrats are often mentioned as possible candidates, among them John Richardson, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, and Patrick McGowan, commissioner of the Department of Conservation.
Mitchell also announced that she plans to run as a Clean Elections candidate, meaning her campaign will be publicly financed. She said that Maine’s Clean Elections program would allow her to spend more time focusing on meeting voters than on fundraising.
Dion is the only other Democrat so far to indicate that she plans to participate in the Clean Elections program.
Mitchell also has served as director of the Maine State Housing Authority as well as three terms on the Vassalboro Board of Selectmen. She and her husband, Jim, have four grown children.