Primary Election Profile: Janet Mills

Jun 6, 2018

Janet Mills, Maine’s current attorney general, is among seven Democrats running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

Mills was district attorney for Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties from 1980 to 1992. She was then elected to the Maine House of Representatives, where she served from 2002 to 2008.

In 2008, Maine lawmakers elected Mills to serve as attorney general, the first woman to win that post. She served one term and was not re-elected after Republicans gained control of the Legislature in 2010. When Democrats regained control in 2012, she was re-elected as attorney general. In 2014, Mills again won the post, where she continues to serve.

Mills holds a bachelor’s from the University of Massachusetts and a law degree from the University of Maine School of Law.

Mills spoke with Maine Public’s Steve Mistler about what sets her apart from her fellow Democrats:

Mistler: There are six other candidates in this primary race and many of them are promoting very similar ideas. What specific proposals make you different from your opponents?

Janet Mills

Mills: I’m proposing to bring people together and get the state on a forward footing again. I think I have the ability to take charge on Day One and bring the parties together to accomplish things in the area of health care and education and economic development. I know the ins and outs of state government, although I’ve also been in the private sector for 14 years representing individuals and small businesses in all kinds of matters. But I also know the state budget. I’m the only person in this race who is from the 2nd Congressional District. I’m the only person in this race who has actually served on the Appropriations Committee, for four years. We did seven budgets in four years during some of the toughest economic times in Maine history. I have that experience to bring to the job. Specific proposals are, for instance, doing data warehousing. Using some of the old mill facilities and combining that with geothermal to spin off a lot of heat — enough heat and energy to supply hundreds of homes and small businesses in the areas that we’re talking about. I have specific ideas, and a statewide strategy for broadband, which is of huge, huge importance to the state of Maine.

Mistler: What is the biggest challenge facing Maine and what would you do as governor to respond?

Mills: First, I want to bring people together again. I don’t want a Maine that is divided. My vision of Maine is undivided, prosperous from north to south, from west to east. Incentivizing, encouraging economic development in the 2nd Congressional District and in the rim counties and Aroostook, which have fallen short in the economic development area and have not had the advantages of higher real estate prices and lower unemployment rates that Cumberland County has had, for instance, and York County. I want to bring technology jobs, I want to bring good-paying trade jobs to other parts of Maine that aren’t as lucky as Cumberland County. And I think I can do that.

Mistler: Polls show that the economy is very important to voters. I get the sense from your first response that you think there have been winners and losers in the recovery that we’ve had. How do you get more winners in the places that are not winning right now?

Mills: First, you’ve got to market the state. There was a book many years ago that said, “We’ve been down so long it looks like up to us.” And to me, although there have been great points in our economy and low unemployment rates, more people are working two and three part-time jobs just to get by - including in southern Maine. And we’re attracting fewer and fewer millennials, fewer and fewer young families. So to do that, we’ve got to market the state of Maine. I want to be the biggest cheerleader for the state of Maine. I want to tell the world what a great place we are what great people we have, what a great work great work ethic we have, what great natural resources and what a great place to live, work and play. So, to do that, you need research and development, equal opportunity for education, and you need infrastructure, meaning not just roads and bridges, but laying fiber. When you rebuild a road or a sewer line or waterline, lay fiber too. Let’s build up that broadband infrastructure.

Mistler: Maine voters will be using ranked-choice voting in this primary. I’m assuming you’re going to rank yourself No. 1. Who will be your second or third choice?

Mills: Oh, that’s unfair, because I probably won’t know until I actually cast a ballot.

This interview has been edited for clarity. For a longer version of this interview, aired as part of a Public Affairs special program, click here. For more on Mills’ stances on the issues, and other Democrats in Maine’s gubernatorial race, click here. Visit our Your Vote 2018 page for more elections resources and information.