Gubernatorial candidate Janet Mills visited the University of Maine Orono on Wednesday, Nov. 1 to discuss her campaign and plans for Maine if she becomes governor. The event was held by the University of Maine College Democrats in the North Pod at 6:30 p.m.
Mills introduced herself and began by discussing her professional and political background. She began her political career as an assistant attorney general before being elected District Attorney for Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties in 1980.
In 2002, Mills was elected as a House Representative for Farmington and Industry, Maine. In 2008 Mills became Maine’s first female Attorney General. She was re-elected again in 2012.
Mills and the club members discussed a variety of topics at the meeting including immigration, student loan debt relief, the opioid crisis, ranked choice voting, environmental sustainability and more. Mills also discussed her legal battles with Governor Paul LePage; the two have had a history of butting heads. The Bangor Daily News keeps up to date a timeline of Mills’ and LePage’s conflicts.
The most recent conflict stemmed from a separate legal battle beginning in February when Mills refused to hire an outside legal counsel for LePage in his effort to defend President Donald Trump’s travel ban in the Washington v. Trump and Hawaii v. Trump cases. LePage filed a complaint on Oct. 27, claiming Mills has been holding back documents regarding the legal counsel case.
LePage wanted “every conversation I had… everything that had to do with Hawaii v. Trump,” Mills explained at the College Dems meeting. Mills claimed that these documents are “work product, not public record.”
Mills also mentioned the hundreds of documents related to the case that her office sent to LePage early in October.
“I guess that wasn’t enough,” Mills chuckled.
“I’ve been fighting to keep the doors open,” Mills said while discussing the travel ban and the rollback of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
The meeting also focused on the opioid crisis and how Mills hopes to continue her efforts to help addicts recover. Mills said she likes Vermont’s “Hub and Spoke” recovery model. This model includes seven hubs where medicine is distributed, and a three-person professional recovery team for every 100 patients.
Mills mentioned her efforts in extinguishing the opioid crisis to date: last year she used $76,500 of the Consumer Trust Fund to buy Naloxone, the opioid-overdose-reversing drug. The first batch of this drug was distributed to police and fire departments in June, just two months after LePage vetoed a bill that would have allowed pharmacists to sell Narcan without a prescription. Mills said to date her Naloxone has saved 287 lives.
When asked about ranked choice voting, a ballot system which allows voters to rank candidates in order of their appeal, Mills said she liked it and it has “a lot of merit,” but there are at least four spots in the Maine Constitution that cause issues with applying it to the general election.
“I would be happy to sit down with them and draft a Constitutional Amendment,” Mills said.
The topic of student loan debt relief came up, and Mills cited her lawsuit against Standard and Poor’s, and how she used the settlement money to create a financial literacy program at the University of Maine in Farmington. The program is slated to expand to the entire University of Maine system. She also said she would like to create more tech jobs in Maine to help ensure students will be financially stable after they graduate.
In commenting on her opposition to last year’s Question One, which legalized recreational cannabis, Mills said her issue was with the particular draft of the bill rather than cannabis legalization in general. According to Mills the wording of the 30-page bill would allow people of any age to possess marijuana. She also mentioned that the bill neglected to establish a regulatory cannabis commission, unlike the legalization bills passed in Massachusetts and California.
“I don’t care if people smoke pot… I just wish they’d do it right,” Mills said.
Mills believes that Mary Mayhew will be the front-running Republican in the gubernatorial race. Mayhew, a former Democrat, has served as a legislative aide for U.S representative Bill Alexander, as Patrick McGowan’s campaign manager in his 1990 congressional race, and as a lobbyist for Maine hospitals.
Mayhew served as Department of Health and Human Services commissioner from 2011 until 2016, during which she led LePage’s DHHS reform. She reduced spending in DHHS by cutting department employees and welfare and food stamp recipients.
“They brag about taking tens of thousands of people off food stamps and TANF,” Mills said at the meeting. He also expressed concern for the one in five Maine children who are food insecure.
“I knew her when she was a Democrat, I know her tactics… I’m ready to take her on,” Mills said, referring to Mayhew.