AUGUSTA – Outgoing Attorney General Janet Mills is one of three new candidates for leadership positions in the Maine Democratic Party.

On Friday, Mills and Ben Grant, a lawyer from Topsham, announced that they are running as a team to lead the Democrats.

Grant, 33, works for the labor and employment law firm McTeague Higbee and wants to be the party’s chairman. Mills, a former legislator and former district attorney, wants to be vice chairwoman.

Mills became attorney general in January 2009 and lost the position this month, when the new Legislature, with a Republican majority, chose Bill Schneider for the post.

Marianne Stevens, the party’s current vice chairwoman, recently added her name to the list of candidates for chair. That list now stands at six: Grant, Stevens, Stephanie Clifford, John R. Hanson, Bil Moriarty and Melissa Sterry.

Two have put their names in for vice chair: Mills and Irving Faunce.

The party’s current chairman, John Knutson, is not running for re-election.

“I think all of us have an interest in seeing the Democrats regain what we lost in the last election,” said Grant, who has worked for two Senate presidents and represents the Maine AFL-CIO on the board of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections.

In November, Republicans won majorities in the House and Senate and won the governorship. Democrats did better at the federal level, as both U.S. representatives — Democrats Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree — retained their seats.

Grant said Democrats must get back to their core messages of “economic and social justice.”

He said he and Mills will analyze what happened in the last election and move quickly to make changes.

Democrats lost ground among rural, blue-collar voters, a bloc that Grant said he wants to win back.

In an e-mail sent Friday to state committee members, Grant and Mills outlined a plan for 2012 in which they promise to:

Work with House and Senate caucuses to “take back both branches of the Legislature.”

Ensure that funds and staffing are available to support a volunteer network.

Make sure the party is “excited and motivated for an aggressive campaign in 2012.”


MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at: [email protected]