FARMINGTON – State Rep. Janet Mills of Farmington, is throwing her hat into two rings this election season.
Mills, a democrat, is a candidate running for a fourth term as the House District 89 state representative, which includes the towns of Farmington and Industry.
She is also a candidate to succeed Maine’s Attorney General Steven Rowe who has reached that job’s term limit.
In the District 89 race, Mills faces challenger Keith Mahoney, a University of Maine at Farmington senior who is majoring in secondary education and is the chairman of the UMF College Republican Club.
To win the state’s top legal job, the Farmington native is in a three-way race to be decided on Dec. 3 by the majority party of the House and Senate combined.
Maine is unique in that it is the only state that elects its attorneys general by the Legislature. The majority of states hold a statewide election for the post. In five states, Alaska, Hawaii, New Jersey, Ohio and Wyoming, the governor appoints the state attorney general. And in one state, the Tennessee Supreme Court has the job of appointing the AG.
As it stands now, Maine’s House dems outnumber the republicans by 31; in the Senate it’s 18-17 dems. Those numbers are bound to change in the upcoming November election, but the presumption by most is a continued democratic majority. If so, it will be up to the democrats to decide who Maine’s next attorney general will be.
House Majority Whip Sean Faircloth of Bangor, who has served at total of five terms (two consecutive terms beginning in 1992 and three terms beginning in 2002) in the House, and John Brautigam of Falmouth, who has served two consecutive terms in the House, are two more democratic lawmakers who have also expressed an interest in the AG’s job.
The job Mills said, serving as chief legal advisor to the state government, is one that requires a high level of legal skill and a complete command of public policy that is dictated by both the state’s Legislature and increasingly, by the federal government.
After graduating from law school, Mills worked for four years as an assistant attorney general. In 1980, she was elected district attorney for Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties. Since 1995, she has practiced law in the firm of Wright & Mills, P.A., with her brother Peter Mills, a state senator from Cornville. She serves on the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee and the Judiciary Committee.
“The attorney general is in a unique position to help the most vulnerable of the population,” Mills said. “You can help combat domestic violence, protect consumers, children, seniors, especially in these tough economic times with high energy costs.”
Mills sees the job as a bully pulpit to assist the public with its needs. Besides helping guide legislation and the governor’s office, an AG represents the state in federal matters, such as the millions earned by Maine and many more states in the tobacco lawsuit settlement a few years ago. Most recently, Rowe negotiated with Merrill Lynch investment company for a return of $20 million back to the state.
Issues of conflict continually arise when there’s a presumption that federal laws preempt state law. Mills said everything from dictating how Maine controls polluation to how the state educations its children are all part of the attorney general’s job – one in which Mills hopes to be elected.
State Rep. Sean Faircloth of Bangor, a veteran legislator who was elected by the House democats to serve as its majority whip this term, also wants to be Attorney General.
“I want to continue the Attorney General’s work, particularly domestic violence issues and child abuse prevention,” Faircloth said. You look at my record and my priorities have always been there.”
He has worked in the areas of child abuse prevention programs, adoption law and the “deadbeat dad” child support law. Also among his accomplishments is that he authored the state’s first research and development tax credit. Faircloth is known as a founding member of the organization that built the Maine Discovery Museum in his hometown.
“I’ve served five terms and worked as an assistant attorney general. That policy work relates to the issues as Attorney General,” Faircloth said. If elected, one of the first things he would like to do is change the mind set regarding lower income families.
“We will continue to address the issues of discrimination based on race and gender,” Faircloth said. “And also focus on the social issues of poverty, child abuse and work place justice.” For his part, Faircloth expressed optimism for his chances of getting elected attorney general.
“I’ve been lucky to have been elected (majority whip) by my colleagues in the Legislature,” he said. “It’s (the attorney general election) the same process, but this time the senate will be added into the mix. I’ve enjoyed being the majority whip, helping candidates and working on new legislation.”
Rep. John Brautigam of Falmouth has also put in his bid for attorney general. A two-term legislator, his experience as an assistant attorney general gave him the opportunity to argue Maine’s Rx Program in the U.S. Supreme Court. He has also worked with Rowe in consumer fraud prevention program and Maine’s clean election legislation.
“The legislators making the decision will hopefully see my commitment to law and that I will work incredibly hard on behalf of the state of Maine,” Brautigam said. He earned a a masters degree in history from Trinity College in 1986 and a law degree at Stanford law School in 1991. He taught high school history before working as an assistant attorney general from 200-2004. He now works as a consultant and legal advocate, besides his duties representing sections of Falmouth and Portland.
“I want to bring the highest level of excellence in enforcing law, defending the state and directing policy for legislation,” Brautigam said. He sees all aspects of health care as a major public policy matter to be a focus in the future, as well as the area of energy consumption, He wants to see to it that consumers aren’t being taken advantage by those energy companies providing the product.
“I want to expand the consumer alert project Steve Rowe started,” Brautigam said, if he is elected. The program operates 40 hours a week now, but an extension of hours is needed, “so nobody calls and gets an answering machine,” he said.
If a candidate is reelected to the House on Nov. 4 and then elected by the Legislature to serve as Maine’s 55th Attorney General on Dec. 3, a special election will need to be held to fill the newly-vacated House seat.
Editor’s note: Janet Mills’ law firm, Wright & Mills, P.A. of Skowhegan, is an advertiser with the Daily Bulldog.