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The Blaine House, the official residence of the governor of Maine. Facebook photo.

Attorney General Janet Mills to run for governor, joining former DHHS commissioner Mary Mayhew



ELLSWORTH — Attorney General Janet Mills joined a growing field of gubernatorial candidates Monday when she announced her plan to run for the state’s highest office next year.

Mills, a Democrat, joins two other women with cabinet-level experience in Maine state government: former Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Commissioner Mary Mayhew, who is a Republican, and current State Treasurer Terry Hayes, who is not enrolled in a political party.

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Attorney General Janet Mills

The three women are the most high-profile candidates in a group that currently numbers nine. Maine voters will elect a new governor next November, as Republican incumbent Paul LePage cannot run again because of term limits.

Despite having elected women to high-level office — think here of United States senators Margaret Chase Smith, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins (all Republicans) — Maine voters have never elected a woman as their governor. So far for the 2018 race, four of the nine declared candidates are women (the fourth is Democrat Elizabeth “Betsy” Sweet).

Mills said she is running because she believes “government is broken” and she has what it takes to fix it. Mayhew has touted changes and reforms made while she led DHHS and said “we have worked too hard to see all we have done undone.” Hayes, meanwhile, said her unenrolled status means she is not “backed by any political party or beholden to any special interests.”

Hayes, of Buckfield, filed to become a candidate on April 14. Mayhew filed on June 6 and lives in South China. Mills is a resident of Farmington.

Mills, in her biography, said she was the first woman to serve as a district attorney in New England when she held the post in western Maine in the 1980s. She went on to serve four terms in the Maine House of Representatives before being elected attorney general — again, the first woman to hold the office — in 2009.

“I’ve spent my life fighting to protect Maine families, defend working people, and preserve our stunning natural resources,” Mills said in declaring her candidacy Monday. She said if elected, she will do “everything in my power to make Maine the safe, beautiful, prosperous state we all want.”

Mayhew was tapped for the DHHS commissioner’s post by LePage in 2011. She served in that role until resigning at the end of May in order to run for governor. She previously worked as a lobbyist for the Maine Hospital Association, and has also worked on previous political campaigns.

Former DHHS commissioner Mary Mayhew

“We need bold leadership and someone who is prepared to make difficult decisions in the best interests of this state,” Mayhew said when she announced her intent to run in early June.

Hayes served on her local school board for 13 years before serving eight years in the Maine Legislature representing towns in Oxford County as a Democrat. She unenrolled from the Democratic Party, was then elected treasurer by the Legislature in 2014 and has served in that capacity since.

“There are good people in Augusta who care deeply about our state and who want to solve problems, but they are stuck in a paradigm that rewards partisanship,” Hayes said on her campaign website. “The rules governing our democracy have been written by the powerful to maintain their privilege at the expense of Maine people.

Other candidates who have registered with the state to run next year are, in alphabetical order by last name, as follows:

  • Adam Cote of Sanford (Democrat, filed April 19). A 20-year veteran of the Army National Guard, Cote finished second behind now-Rep. Chellie Pingree in a four-candidate Democratic primary in Maine’s First Congressional District in 2008.
  • Jay Dresser of Bangor (Green Independent, filed May 31). A former banker, Dresser made his first run for elected office last fall when he unsuccessfully ran as an independent candidate for Maine’s Second Congressional District seat held by Republican Bruce Poliquin.
  • Patrick “Ike” Eisenhart of Augusta (Democrat, filed March 20). A political newcomer, Eisenhart served in both the Army and Coast Guard, retiring from the latter branch of service with the rank of commander.
  • Richard Light of Liberty (Libertarian, filed April 18). An Army veteran who has also worked as a corrections officer, Light lists 18 different private-industry jobs on his resume and also holds a master’s degree in counseling psychology.
  • Deril Stubenrod of Clinton (Republican, filed Feb. 1). The first candidate to officially file for the race for governor, Stubenrod said he has a background in public safety, a “Christian world view” and describes himself as “very conservative.”
  • Elizabeth “Betsy” Sweet of Hallowell (Democrat, filed May 30). A longtime advocate for “women, people with disabilities, victims of abuse and discrimination, and the environment,” Sweet also has a master’s degree in spiritual psychology and works as a life coach.
Steve Fuller

Steve Fuller

Reporter at The Ellsworth American,
Steve Fuller has worked at The Ellsworth American since 2012. He covers the city of Ellsworth, including the Ellsworth School Department and the city police beat, as well as the towns of Amherst, Aurora, Eastbrook, Great Pond, Mariaville, Osborn, Otis and Waltham. A native of Waldo County, he served as editor of Belfast's Republican Journal prior to joining the American. He lives in Orland. [email protected]