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Paul LePage Formally Announces Campaign For Third Term In Blaine House

Paul LePage
Robert F. Bukaty
Former Gov. Paul LePage, sitting in a Lexus SC 430, talks to supporters at a rally against the executive orders by Gov. Janet Mills to keep some Maine businesses closed to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, Saturday, May 16, 2020, in Augusta, Maine. LePage, now a resident of Florida, stayed in his car parked near the rally. A speaker at the event said the former governor was quarantining.

Former Gov. Paul LePage formally announced his bid for a third term in the Blaine House on Monday, just several days after the Republican formally registered with the state as a candidate and started a campaign website.

“Maine faces several challenges and we must work toward building a better future based on individual liberty, fiscal responsibility, and an economy which empowers everyone including our rural communities,” LePage said in a statement.

He said there will be a more formal campaign kick-off in the fall.

During his two terms in office from 2011 to 2019, the bombastic former governor who arose during the Tea Party movement cut taxes, shrunk Maine’s welfare system, overhauled the state pension system and paid back the state’s hospitals millions in Medicaid debt. He has compared himself to former President Donald Trump.

But LePage stymied development of renewable energy sources while attempting to revive the state’s traditional industries in forest products. LePage also brought a confrontational style that, at times, dragged routine governing decisions into Maine’s courts, and he repeatedly made controversial remarks that received national press scrutiny.

LePage has hinted at a return bid ever since current Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, took office in 2019. She was the state's attorney general while LePage was governor, and often served as his political foil. Mills has had a campaign committee and been raising money for months, making clear that she is in the race to win.

Mills has sought to reverse some LePage policies since taking office, such as by going ahead with the voter-approved Medicaid expansion that he resisted and promoting renewable energy development.

But she has worked to take a moderate path, such as by increasing spending without raising taxes, and by vetoing some bills backed by progressives in areas such as criminal justice and tribal gaming rights.

Mills has also overseen the coronavirus response in Maine, which has had some of the nation's lowest per capita infection rates and highest vaccination rates at various points during the pandemic.

In a statement on Monday, Mills pointed to some of her accomplishments, including the coronavirus response and the Medicaid expansion that has now enrolled more than 75,000 Mainers in the federal health coverage program.

Mills said that she "has gone to work every day to fight for the lives and livelihoods of Maine people. She knows that growing a strong economy in every corner of Maine means investing in our greatest asset: our people."

But Mills has encountered a backlash from some conservatives over the business restrictions she's put in place during the pandemic, and LePage notably made an appearance during at least one protest of those restrictions.

Another wild card issue in the race could be the transmission line Central Maine Power is working to build through western Maine. It's a rare issue on which Mills and LePage agree — they both support the project.

However, there have been rumors that Tom Saviello of Wilton, a former state senator and avid foe of the CMP project, could enter the field as an independent, according to the Bangor Daily News.