If there were a classified ad for governor, it would look something like this:

“Executive needed to draft a budget that reflects the values of 1.3 million people; implement programs initiated by a 186-member board of directors; take ultimate responsibility for anything done or not done by a workforce of about 11,000; represent the organization regionally, nationally and globally; compensation is $70,000 a year, not negotiable.”

Yet somehow, there are still applicants for the position. Of the four candidates for governor whose names appear on the ballot this year, we find that Attorney General Janet Mills best fills the requirements for the state’s most complicated job.

In her campaign, Mills has focused on the right issues: health care, education and rural economic growth. But what sets her apart from the field is her deep knowledge of state government, what its agencies are supposed to do and how they are supposed work together. She also knows from experience how the Legislature can navigate partisan differences and still be productive: She has shown that she knows when to fight and when to compromise.

Here’s how we came to this conclusion:

The Editorial Board interviewed each of the candidates individually and questioned them about their proposals. Then on Oct. 10, we co-sponsored a debate at the University of New England where we were able to see them in action.

WEIGHING THE OPTIONS

Before we came to a decision, our newsroom leadership asked us not to endorse in this or any race, arguing that when the opinion staff express a preference for a candidate, readers impute a partisan bias to the reporters, photographers and editors, who stay out of politics as a matter of professional discipline.

But on the opinion side of the organization, we see candidate endorsements as both a tradition and a duty that provides a service to readers – not by telling them how to vote, but by walking them through our reasoning.

And that’s how we approached this race. At times we wished we could merge the candidates into one, and produce someone with the optimistic confidence of Shawn Moody, the emotional intelligence of Terry Hayes, the thoughtful analysis of Alan Caron, along with Mills’ command of the tools that a governor has to work with.

If this were a ranked-choice election, we would likely vote first for Caron’s clear-headed vision of an economic future built on starting new businesses and helping them grow. He had the best answers on broadband expansion, renewable energy and climate change mitigation.

But ideas aren’t on the ballot, and there will be no opportunities to rank choices in this race. Terry Hayes is not wrong when she says that politics have become too partisan, but promising to listen to both sides is not enough of a direction for a state that needs to pick a course in the face of immediate challenges.

ONE CLEAR CHOICE

Either Mills or Moody will be the next governor, and between them, the choice is clear for us.

Shawn Moody has an inspiring life story and remarkable business success, but that does not prepare him for what he would face in Augusta. For instance, his idea that charity care in emergency rooms means that everyone in Maine is covered shows he doesn’t understand what makes health care costs go up, and what happens when it becomes too expensive.

Mills does get it, even if – when pressed for time – she will talk about it in Augusta shorthand. She has plans to get more people covered at lower cost, first by drawing down federal funds to expand Medicaid eligibility and then by allowing individuals and small businesses to buy into the plans that cover public employees.

She has equally creative and practical proposals for fighting the opioid epidemic and growing the state’s economy, offering concrete plans to take on these challenges, not just good intentions.

It’s hard to find one person who can excel in everything that a Maine governor has to be able to do, but in our view, one candidate in this race comes the closest.

That’s why Janet Mills gets our endorsement.

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