Former Gov. Paul LePage formally announced his candidacy for the Blaine House on Monday, setting up what is likely to be a contentious race against incumbent Democratic Gov. Janet Mills in 2022.
LePage, whose eight years in office began suggesting that he might challenge Mills almost as soon as she was elected in 2018. After filing candidacy paperwork last week, LePage made it official Monday in a press release as he urged people to “join together to build a better future for Maine.”
LePage was successful in securing major policy victories even when Democrats controlled the Legislature. He reduced income taxes several times, reduced welfare rolls and expenditures by tightening eligibility, reduced government red tape on businesses, rebuilt the state’s “rainy day” fund and significantly reduced the size of state government.
LePage also exercised his veto pen more than any other governor in state history, rejecting more than 600 bills submitted by Democrats and Republicans.
Maine’s Constitution prohibited LePage from seeking a third consecutive term in 2018. He remains popular with his Republican base in Maine and was an avid supporter of President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign.
LePage changed his residency to Florida, where he and his wife own a home, immediately after Mills took office to take advantage of the state’s lower taxes. He and Ann LePage moved to the midcoast town of Edgecomb and re-established Maine residency in 2020.
Although Mills has yet to formally announce her candidacy, her campaign has been raising money for months.
During the former governor’s two terms, Gov. Janet Mills was serving as attorney general, Mills occasionally exercising her authority to decline to represent the LePage administration on legal matters that she said were not in the state’s interest. Governor Mills has spent the past two-plus years reversing some of LePage’s major policy initiatives.
On her first day in office, she expanded the state’s Medicaid program, MaineCare, to cover tens of thousands of additional lower-income residents after LePage refused to do so for years. Mills has refilled positions throughout state government that were eliminated or left vacant by LePage – including many in the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention – as well as made renewable energy and addressing climate change top priorities of her administration.
The race is also likely to draw major money from national organizations and outside groups. Maine’s gubernatorial races also typically draw at least one and sometimes several independent candidates. But while ranked-choice voting comes into play in primary elections for governor involving more than two candidates, the state’s Constitution does not allow ranked-choice voting during the general gubernatorial election.
LePage won his first bid for the Blaine House in 2010, emerging from the Republican primary and going on to defeat a Democrat and two independents in the general election. He won with just 38 percent of the vote – a fact that his many critics and political opponents frequently cited and even put on bumper stickers – but upped that margin to 48 percent four years later in the 2014 race.
On Monday, his campaign said the former governor looked forward to a “fall kickoff” of the re-election effort and that LePage would spend the remainder of the summer “listening to Maine people and building the campaign.” His campaign has indicated that LePage would not be scheduling media interviews before the fall kickoff.
Instead, the campaign launched a website that recaps LePage’s personal and political history: from his days as one of 18 children in a poor Lewiston family marred by domestic violence to his successful business career and years as Waterville mayor and Maine governor.