AUGUSTA, Maine — Former Gov. Paul LePage may well run against his Democratic successor to take back the Blaine House in 2022, but he isn’t running yet despite a Thursday comment to a Presque Isle TV station that prompted confusion and overstatement.
The former two-term Republican governor has been teasing a potential run against Gov. Janet Mills since before he left office after a 2018 election in which Democrats took over Augusta. He has not officially filed and has said he will make an announcement after the 2020 election.
LePage has been consistent when discussing 2022 — mostly. LePage and Mills were enemies during their concurrent tenures as governor and attorney general, respectively, often staking out conflicting stances. After she won the 2018 election to succeed the term-limited LePage, he said he planned to run against her in 2022 if she didn’t govern to his liking.
Mills has not. The early part of her tenure was focused on Mills undoing several LePage-era policies, including her implementation of the voter-approved Medicaid expansion that the former governor both opposed and blocked. His political group has criticized Mills’ budgeting practices and could be seen as a campaign in waiting.
“Her failed policies are weighing on him, and former First Lady [Ann] LePage, and his decision on whether to come out of retirement,” Brent Littlefield, LePage’s longtime political adviser, wrote in an email. “It would be a significant sacrifice but they are definitely considering it.”
During his tenure, LePage hemmed and hawed over a 2018 Senate run — calling one 2015 remark that he would run a “wisecrack” — that he ended up declining. He said in 2013 he would run for Congress before dismissing it as a joke. But LePage has since said he’s an executive ill-suited to Congress. His potential return bid is being taken seriously in Republican circles.
He told the Bangor Daily News in August to expect a formal announcement after the 2020 election, though he told WVOM on Wednesday he is “probably not the right guy to come back” if Central Maine Power’s hydropower corridor — which he and Mills back — is defeated by voters.
On Thursday, he told WAGM that he was considering a run, but he wanted to see “what happens this year with the election.” It was reported as an announcement that he would run, but it was no stronger than the language he has used.
There are no constitutional hurdles to another LePage run as long as he becomes a Maine resident again. Term limits in Maine only apply consecutively, so LePage would not be barred from being governor for another two terms. At 71, he is nine months younger than Mills. His only hurdle is being a Maine resident after he and his wife sold their last home here in 2018.
LePage registered to vote in Florida on the same day that Mills was inaugurated in 2019. The Maine Constitution requires someone to have been a resident of Maine for a total of five years and be a resident at the time of election. He has long said he would be a resident by the time of the 2022 election.