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Democrat Mills to be Maine’s 1st female governor

November 7, 2018
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Democratic gubernatorial candidate Janet Mills meets voters outside a polling place, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Lewiston, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Democratic Attorney General Janet Mills won the race to succeed firebrand GOP Gov. Paul LePage on Tuesday, becoming the first woman to serve as governor in Maine.

The former lawmaker and prosecutor defeated Republican businessman Shawn Moody and independent state treasurer Terry Hayes, who conceded Tuesday.

Mills pledged to usher in an era of “open doors” and collaboration in state government. She also vowed to change the tone after eight years of LePage’s combative style, and to fight LePage and Trump administration policies on environmental, immigration and welfare.

“Hope has been severely challenged in the last few years — both here in Maine and across the country,” she said. “Challenged by the politics of cynicism, of fear, of distrust, of anger.”

Maine has had other prominent women in politics but the state has never had a woman serve as governor.

When asked about the significance of her gubernatorial run as a woman, Mills has often instead stressed her own personal experience as a lawmaker and prosecutor. But she said Tuesday that she hopes her win sends a message “to the women and girls of Maine of any age.”

“There is no obstacle you cannot overcome,” she said. “None.”

The gubernatorial race results in an advertising blitz, and liberal out-of-state groups outspent Republicans on attack ads on behalf of Mills. Mills spent roughly $3 million and outside groups spent at least $7.7 million to boost her, while total spending on Moody’s race was $5.8 million, according to the latest state campaign finance reports.

Other than that, though, it was an unusually quiet campaign season that resulted in few fireworks and in little polling.

The entire field of candidates agreed the firebrand LePage steadied finances in an aging, rural, economically stagnant state.

The new governor will face key decisions on the future of Medicaid expansion and marijuana retail sales, which have been delayed since voters approved them in 2017 and 2016, respectively.

Mills, a long-time LePage foe, said she’d reverse LePage-era cutbacks to public food assistance. She said she’ll quickly implement voter-approved Medicaid expansion that the governor has held up in court over his fiscal concerns.

Mills has called for more grants and loans to spur broadband projects and encourage Mainers to return to Maine and live and work remotely.

She opposed a ballot referendum that failed Tuesday to raise taxes for a universal home care program, but said she’ll work to address the issue as governor.

The attorney general has also lambasted the governor for pulling out of off-shore wind projects.

Mills fought off attacks from LePage, who has lodged unsuccessful and ongoing lawsuits claiming she abused her power while in office. The attorney general says she’s fought for Maine people as an independent constitutional officer with the legal authority to determine what’s in the state’s public interest.

The voting came against a backdrop of Democratic anger over the election of President Donald Trump. Democrats had an advantage over Republicans in the number of absentee ballots.

In Portland, Republican voter Josh Rent called Trump “nasty” and said “life doesn’t have to be this nasty.”

“I’m generally a fairly reliable Republican. This is the first time I ever voted pretty much Democrat all the way down the ballot,” said Rent, a small business owner in Portland.

Moddy said he lost the race and that he didn’t want to point fingers or sugar coat anything. Moody ran on promising to continue the fiscally conservative legacy of Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

He said he thinks there was a path to victory. But Moody noted efforts in Maine and nationally to swing politics in the opposite direction.

Ranked-choice voting is being used in Maine’s federal elections Tuesday but not in the gubernatorial race, legislative races, referendums or local races.

Maine residents approved the system in 2016 after nine of the past 11 gubernatorial elections resulted in winners who had failed to get a majority of the vote.

But the system doesn’t apply to state general elections because of concerns it runs afoul of the Maine Constitution.

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For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics

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