AUGUSTA, Maine — Former Democratic Maine House Speaker Mark Eves told supporters on Thursday that he’ll run in 2018 to replace the term-limited Republican Gov. Paul LePage, his political and personal foe during his tenure in Augusta.
Eves, 40, a family therapist who now serves as executive director of Woodfords Family Services in Westbrook announced his bid during a Thursday evening barbecue at his North Berwick home after teasing the announcement in a video posted Thursday morning.
Eves told supporters that he’s “not Gov. LePage’s favorite person,” but implored people to not see political foes as “us and them” but rather as “friends.”
“I believe that is how we will start to bring together a state that can feel all too divided and build a better Maine one family at a time,” he said.
The news is little surprise to Maine’s political establishment. Eves, a former four-term representative who was House speaker from 2012 to 2016, becomes the fifth Democrat in the party’s increasingly crowded field.
He has long shown ambitions to run for governor while serving as a key foil but until now hasn’t confirmed them. When asked whether he was planning a gubernatorial run by the Bangor Daily News in 2015, he said, “I’d love to continue to serve in public office.”
In late 2016, with six months left before he was forced out of office by term limits, Eves launched a 10-stop “listening tour” through Maine, even though he wasn’t returning to office.
Helping senior citizens maintain independence and lower living costs has been a focus of Eves’ political career. He led efforts to provide direct-care workers who serve senior citizens with raises and in 2014 sponsored a successful property tax relief bill that included an extra benefit for homeowners older than 65.
In 2015, Eves spearheaded a $15 million senior citizen housing bond, which was approved by more than 69 percent of voters at referendum. LePage has refused to sell that bond and though a bill to force the governor’s hand passed the Legislature this year, House Republicans sustained the governor’s veto of it.
LePage has said repeatedly that the bonds won’t be sold while he is still governor, although the bonds will still be valid under his successor.
Eves is well known for his legal clashes with the governor, which started in June 2015 after LePage intervened in a decision by the Good Will-Hinckley board of directors to hire Eves as its executive director. The contract with Eves was quickly rescinded by the school after LePage threatened to withdraw state funding. That triggered an unsuccessful attempt in the House to impeach LePage and a lawsuit by Eves that was dismissed by a federal judge in 2016 and then again on appeal.
The 2018 Democratic primary field is growing. On Monday, Attorney General Janet Mills announced her candidacy. Sanford attorney and military veteran Adam Cote, lobbyist Betsy Sweet of Hallowell and Patrick Eisenhart of Augusta have also filed to run as Democrats.
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.
BDN writer Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.