BANGOR, Maine — Janet Mills’ speech to lawmakers Thursday after she was sworn in as attorney general for a third term sounded like she might be kicking off a campaign for governor.
But Mills of Farmington said Friday at an editorial board meeting with the Bangor Daily News that she “was not starting a PAC and gearing up to run for another political office.”
“I like what I’m doing even with this governor,” she said during the meeting that lasted about 90 minutes and touched on her rocky relationship with Gov. Paul LePage, the rise in heroin use and methamphetamine labs in Maine, elder abuse and other issues in which her office has been involved. “I don’t mind an occasional spat. I love the law. I love litigation. I love the people I’m working with. I’d like to get in court more often. You can do a lot as attorney general even when the governor doesn’t agree with you on anything.”
LePage hired outside counsel after Mills refused to sue the U.S. government over the requirement in the Affordable Care Act that Medicaid cover poor 19- and 20-year-olds. She also refused to defend the governor’s cuts in General Assistance to municipalities that offer aid to undocumented immigrants with pending asylum applications.
On Friday, Mills did not completely rule out running for higher office someday.
“You can’t say that something might not happen [that would change my mind],” she said. “Nobody thought that George Mitchell wouldn’t run for re-election. Nobody thought that Olympia Snowe wouldn’t run for re-election. Nobody thought that Bill Cohen wouldn’t run for re-election.”
The attorney general did say she would have run for the office she holds if Maine were a state where the people and not the Legislature elected its constitutional officers. Mills also said that she was not convinced a popularly elected attorney general who would have to raise money to fund a campaign would work in a state such as Maine with a small population.
“It would be awkward to be raising money,” she said. “There isn’t a business entity or group in Maine that isn’t somehow affected by the work of the office of the attorney general. We collect child support from thousands of people. We enforce the child protection laws, business regulations and professional licensing laws.
“It’s nearly impossible to figure out some way to donate to an attorney general’s campaign where the person might not be thinking in the back of his or her mind that there might be a quid pro quo for their contribution,” Mills said. “That’s the tough thing. I don’t have a solution.”
Over the next two years, Mills said that her priorities would be working with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, the U.S. attorney’s office, the pharmacies, the medical community and advocates for drug treatment to decrease the use of illegal drugs in Maine.
“My office will take part in the all-out attack on the meth makers and heroin traffickers who are killing our youth,” she told lawmakers Thursday.
LePage included in his proposed budget, released Friday, money for four more drug prosecutors in the attorney general’s office. Last session, the Legislature refused to fund those positions.
Mills also said Friday she will work to improve batterers intervention programs, how cases concerning financial exploitation of the elderly are handled, equipment at the medical examiner’s office and the recoupment of funds lost to fraud.