Gov. Janet Mills dances with supporters during an event hosted by the Maine Democratic Party at Aura in Portland on Tuesday. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Gov. Janet Mills won reelection Tuesday, soundly defeating her predecessor and political rival, former Gov. Paul LePage.

“We’re not going back,” Mills shouted during a victory speech. “We’re going to keep taking Maine into the future!”

President Biden called Mills to congratulate her around 11:30 p.m., shortly before she took the stage to address supporters.

LePage did not concede but was heard late Tuesday telling disappointed supporters “next time.”

LePage focused his campaign on economic and pocketbook issues, while Mills and Democrats touted the incumbent’s achievements and cast LePage and Republicans as threats to abortion.

“If heating oil is not as important as abortion,” LePage said in a short speech to supporters late Tuesday, “then I’m telling you I should have never gotten into politics.”


Gov. Janet Mills pauses to take in applause from the crowd after her acceptance speech. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Mills’ victory was assured after she secured huge wins in Lewiston, former Gov. Paul LePage’s hometown, and in Waterville, where he served as mayor for six years.

The Associated Press declared Mills the winner around 1 a.m. as Mills led LePage 55% to 44% with nearly 80 percent of votes counted. Independent Sam Hunkler had 2%.

Democrats also retained control of both houses of the Legislature Tuesday, outperforming the expectations of many observers who said Republicans were poised to win a majority in the state Senate.

Mills, a 74-year-old Farmington native and the state’s first woman elected governor, was seeking a second term against the former two-term Republican governor. A 74-year-old Lewiston native, LePage served from 2011 to 2019 before leaving office because of term limits.

Election night results party for gubernatorial candidate Paul LePage. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Tuesday’s gubernatorial election was the culmination of a hard-fought – and expensive – contest between two well-known political heavyweights, waged against a shifting national backdrop.

Mills’ supporters gathered at Aura in Portland after polls closed. Campaign staffers sounded confident by 9 p.m., encouraged by wins in Falmouth, Biddeford and later Lewiston and Waterville.


Mills arrived at around 9:30 p.m. She was greeted with a big round of applause and danced with her grandchildren.

After Lewiston announced its results, Mills spokesperson Scott Odgen said the campaign was “cautiously optimistic” about the outcome.

“There are still a lot of returns to come in, but we feel cautiously optimistic” he said. “We firmly believe that Maine people want a governor who fights problems not people.”

Election night results party for gubernatorial candidate Paul LePage. Pam Miller, left, of Nobleboro comforts a woman who cries as Paul LePage speaks to his supporters on Tuesday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

During her victory speech, Mills thanked her supporters and recounted her accomplishments, including expanding MaineCare, two years of free community college and $850 inflation relief checks. She also alluded to the ads attacking her, sometimes with dishonest claims.

“This campaign ends as it began – with listening to the people of Maine, hearing your concerns, telling you the truth, and delivering solutions, not vitriol,” Mills said.

At the same time, Mills urged her supporters to be gracious. She acknowledged the challenges of inflation and the high cost of home heating fuel, saying she would work to help all Mainers.


“There are decent people of goodwill who are worried and who disagree about how to best solve the problems we are facing,” Mills said. “We should not dismiss these concerns or the people who hold them. We must embrace them and work to find common ground.”

She continued, “our nation is divided, but I do not believe Maine has to be. … To those who did not vote for me, I say to you I will do all I can to improve your life and your livelihood here in this state that we both love so much.”

LePage gathered with supporters and campaign staff at his headquarters in Lewiston.

Shortly before 11 p.m., LePage emerged from a private room defiant after losing his hometown to Mills. He called the governor “an elitist.” His wife, Ann, was smiling but her daughter, Lauren, was tearful at his side.

“Right now, the election doesn’t look very well,” LePage told supporters. “Are we conceding? Absolutely not.”

While it wasn’t a concession speech, LePage was heard telling supporters “next time” as he walked toward the stage.


Earlier in the day, he greeted voters at a local school. LePage and his wife, Ann, greeted dinner-time voters in the colorful hallway at the Longley School in Lewiston with Rick LaChapelle, a city counselor who is running for state Senate.

LePage told well-wishers in his native city that he is heartened by the high turnout in Maine’s small towns, which have reported having so many more voters than expected for a midterm election that they had to print extra ballots.

A man who did not want to give a name checks results at an election night results party for gubernatorial candidate Paul LePage. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

By 9:30 p.m., a small group of supporters and party officials had gathered in the second floor of the former Peck Building that doubles as LePage’s Lewiston campaign headquarters to await results.

LePage, his family and his advisors stayed downstairs in what they were calling the war room to field calls and tabulate incoming vote counts, with a campaign official popping upstairs now and then to grab a burger, do a quick stand-up TV interview over the country music soundtrack getting piped in or shake an inevitably red-clad donor’s hand.

A LePage campaign adviser said the former governor was hoping to narrow the margins in 20 or so communities around Portland that Mills won four years ago. That didn’t happen and losing Lewiston was considered by his staff to be the end of the road.

The race for governor was clearly a big reason for the heavy voter turnout across the state.


In Portland, Yvonne Marmet voted early in the morning before she went to work. She’s retired, but said she took a retail job to help with rising costs due to inflation. She supported LePage because she appreciated his conservative approach to government spending and the economy.

“What we’ve worked and put away for – poof,” said Marmet, 58.

The governor’s race was also top of mind for Michael Elovitz as he cast his ballot first thing Tuesday at Merrill Auditorium. He said he is alarmed by the direction of the Republican Party and those who deny election results without evidence.

“I voted for Janet Mills,” said Elovitz, 40. “I think Paul LePage is atrocious and scary for the state. I think she’s doing more.”

Gov. Janet Mills hugs her granddaughter during her acceptance speech. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The contest was the most expensive governor’s race in state history.

The final dollar tallies won’t be known until December, but more than $27 million has already been spent on the governor’s race, including $20 million by groups not affiliated with any campaign. The vast majority of the outside spending – nearly $18 million – went toward attacking a candidate.


The candidates, meanwhile, have spent more than $7 million combined, with Mills holding a significant fundraising advantage over LePage, raising $5.7 million to his $2.6 million.

A year ago, the race seemed to be dominated by concerns over pandemic mandates. The national narrative changed early this year, as voters began feeling the pinch of rising gas prices and global inflation.

Abortion erupted as a major issue in June when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that guaranteed women a constitutional right to abortion for the past 50 years.

The decision outraged women and Democrats, offering the party some hope that they could overcome traditional headwinds of being the party in control of the White House in a midterm election.

Abortion seemed to dominate much of the campaigning here and nationally throughout the summer. But attention began shifting back to pocketbook issues, particularly rising inflation and the high cost of home heating oil, in the fall.

Former Gov Paul LePage appears at his election night party and greets Dawn Gilbert of Boothbay, saying it “doesn’t look well”. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

While focusing on economic issues, LePage had attempted to moderate his positions on issues such as abortion and immigration in an attempt to appeal to moderate voters who would decide the election. He had won his previous two races in 2010 and 2014 in three-way races that included a strong independent candidate with money and name recognition, Eliot Cutler.


This race, however, lacked a formidable third-party candidate. Hunkler, a retired Beals physician and political newcomer, qualified for the ballot, but ran a nontraditional campaign. He shunned campaign donations, choosing instead to self-fund a campaign that would cost no more than $5,000. And he only participated in one debate with Mills and LePage.

All 186 seats in the Legislature – 151 in the House and 35 in the Senate – also were up for grabs. Democrats currently control both chambers, but election forecasters say Maine is one of the few toss-up states when it comes to which party will win control of the Legislature on Tuesday.

Election officials across the state were tallying not only the ballots that were cast in person on Tuesday, but also a record number of absentee ballots for a midterm election. As of Tuesday afternoon, 251,967 absentee ballots were requested and 235,164 had been returned. Roughly half of those absentee ballots were cast by Democrats.

Secretary of State Shenna Bellows said she expected 70% of the state’s nearly 905,000 registered voters to cast ballots either in person or absentee. That’s higher than for the 2018 midterm election but less than in the 2020 presidential year.

Staff Writers Penelope Overton and Eric Russell contributed to this story.

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