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November 7, 2018

Mills promises 'new era of hope' as Maine's first female governor

Courtesy / Campaign of Janet Mills
Courtesy / Campaign of Janet Mills
Janet Mills was elected Tuesday as Maine's first female governor. With 79% of precincts reporting, she was leading Republican Shawn Moody 51% to 43%. Independent Terry Hayes was at 6%.

Democrat Janet Mills will lead Maine for the next four years as the state's first female governor — and the first from Franklin County — after beating Republican Shawn Moody in a decisive victory on Tuesday.

Mills, 70, who frequently clashed with Republican Gov. Paul LePage during her tenure as attorney general, was leading Republican Shawn Moody by 51% to 43% on Wednesday morning with 79% of precincts reporting, according to the Portland Press Herald website. Independent Terry Hayes had 6%.

Taking the stage at Aura Tuesday night in Portland singing and grooving along to the 1960s Motown hit "Get Ready," Mills spoke of ushering in a new era of hope she said had been "severely challenged" in Maine and across the country by the politics of fear, of distrust and of anger.

"It is time, they say, for hope once again," she said. "It is time to dream once again. It is time for a new day in Maine."

Mills repeated her pledges to invest in education, spur the economy, secure a clean-energy future and widen access to health care.

"What was once campaign talk and a promise about expanding health care will now become a reality for thousands of Maine people across the state," she added.

[Mainebiz did not attend the late-night speech, a videotaped version of which was shared online here. ]

Mills warned that there's too much at stake to fall back on old ways, saying: "I pledge as governor to think anew, to act anew, to begin anew starting now. It's our turn to empower a new generation of leaders to put Maine on course for a more prosperous future. That's exactly what I intend to do."

Highlights of Mills' economic plan

Mills' economic plan, posted online, includes these elements:

  • Creating a Small Business Accelerator to help startups that need help accessing financing, training workers or handling state regulations.
  • Providing 18 months of no-interest loans for small businesses to pay for adding a new hire.
  • Establishing the Welcome Home Program to help former and future Mainers bring their current job to Maine to work remotely and live here.
  • Providing a Rural Workforce Grant to help communities set up downtown coworking spaces.

'Powerful signal' to Maine's girls and women

Mills — who grew up in a Republican family in rural western Maine and raised five girls after her 1985 marriage to their father, widower Stan Kuklinski — reflected on the historical moment of her election as Maine's first female leader. (Kuklinski died in 2014.)

"I do hope this election sends a powerful signal, a message to the girls and women of Maine of any age, there is no obstacle you cannot overcome — none!" she said. "There is nothing you can't do!"

She reinforced her message of optimism quoting an Emily Dickinson poem that hope is the "thing with feathers" that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words. She also spoke of "the sustaining power of hope in small things" specific to Maine:

"The hope in the fisherman from Port Clyde who takes to the water every day for his living, the hope in the engineer in Orono who knows that today could be the day that brings that revolutionary breakthrough, the hope in the shipbuilders at Bath who know that their work will be what keeps America safe, the hope of the young person who fights every day in the battle against addiction, and the hope in the first cries of my new granddaughter."

She also thanked her opponents for leading respectable, honorable campaigns and had a special shout-out to Independent Alan Caron, who had dropped out of the race last week and gave her his endorsement. She thanked him for being at her victory party in Portland but joked that she had no time to take an incoming call from Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, who served as Maine's governor from 1995-2003 and will return to the Senate for a second term.

"Tell him to wait!" Mills said.

Maine was among seven states where Democrats wrested control of governor's offices, on a night that saw a record number of women elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, including the first two Native Americans. Democrats won back control of the House, while Republicans as expected retained the majority in the U.S. Senate.

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