Democrat Janet Mills won the governor’s race early Wednesday, becoming Maine’s first woman to hold the office.

“I am so excited for what lies ahead,” Mills said after dancing her way up to the podium amid cheers at the campaign party at the Aura nightclub in Portland. “It is time, they say, for hope once again … and for a new day in Maine.”

With 245 out of 574 precincts reporting at 7 a.m. Wednesday, Mills had 50 percent of the vote to Republican Shawn Moody’s 43 percent. Independent candidate Terry Hayes, who conceded early in the evening, was drawing about 6 percent of the vote. The returns, which came in slowly after a day with larger-than-expected turnout, represent 74 percent of the total vote.

Mills said she hopes her victory inspires other women.

“I do hope this election sends a powerful signal, a message to women and girls of Maine of any age: there is no obstacle that you cannot overcome. None!” Mills said to roars and thunderous applause from the crowd, some of whom were wiping tears away as she spoke. “There is nothing you can’t do!”

Mills campaign spokesman Scott Ogden said the campaign always knew it would be a close race, but momentum seemed to shift in Democrats’ favor in recent weeks.

Moody told supporters he had given the race his all.

Shawn Moody stands with his wife, Chrissi, while talking to supporters and conceding the gubernatorial race to Janet Mills on Tuesday night in Gorham. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

“I don’t think we left anything in the tank,” Moody told supporters gathered at his Gorham business. “We worked hard and came up short.”

Moody, who gave $503,000 to his own campaign, criticized the high cost of campaigning.

“One in four children in Maine are food insecure and we are spending $25 million on political campaigns, to me that’s not where we should be,” he said.

Mills said Moody called her to concede and she thanked him “for running an honorable and respectful campaign.”

Mills will replace the hard-charging and controversial Republican Paul LePage, whose legacy has cast a shadow on the campaign trail, going back to the primary. On the Democratic side, Mills and the other hopefuls vowed to be the opposite of the brash-talking and sometimes explosive LePage. It was a particular point for Mills, who for the past six years, as the state’s attorney general, has dogged LePage and been a foil to his conservative agenda.

Moody had vowed to continue LePage policies, and had benefited from inheriting a campaign staff from LePage, including daughter Lauren LePage and political adviser Brent Littlefield.

LePage’s public complaints about Mills – he even filed a lawsuit at one point accusing her of abusing her powers – served to raise Mills’ profile statewide, both for the Democrats who loathe LePage and the Republicans who love him.

The 2018 race for governor was unusual in several respects, most notably the largely civil tenor and low-key profile of the campaigns.

Janet Mills holds up her fists in celebration Tuesday night, immediately after getting the phone call that she is the next governor of Maine. She was staying at an AirBnB near her election party at Aura in Portland. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

Neither Moody nor Mills held any large, public events – such as rallies featuring big-name national political figures – since winning their respective primary races in June. Instead, both candidates relied heavily on small-group gatherings, unpublicized visits with business or community groups, appearances at fairs or other events, and aggressive get-out-the-vote campaigns.

The four candidates for governor – including Hayes and fellow independent Alan Caron, who dropped out and endorsed Mills last week – were largely respectful and even courteous to each other at debates and forums. It wasn’t until last week, during the final televised debate of the election, that the gloves came off and the candidates personally went after each other.

There were plenty of attack ads – and accusations of lies, distortions and flip-flopping – swirling around the gubernatorial campaign. But the campaigns allowed the state parties or outside groups to do much of that dirty work.

All told, the four gubernatorial campaigns – including Caron – had spent more than $6.6 million as of the beginning of this month. The Maine Democratic Party, the Maine Republican Party and more than a half-dozen outside groups, meanwhile, pumped more than $11 million into the gubernatorial race, according to campaign finance data compiled by the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices.

Mills, who has served eight years as attorney general, campaigned on taking Maine in “a new direction” and on “turning the page” after eight tumultuous years under LePage. Throughout her campaign, Mills highlighted her history of rebuffing both LePage – repeatedly refusing to represent the administration on court – and President Trump on issues ranging from health care to immigration.

But Mills, 70, also emphasized her track record as a former prosecutor in western Maine and her family roots in Maine’s more rural, conservative 2nd Congressional District. In addition to campaigning on bedrock Democratic issues such as access to abortion and protecting the environment, Mills pledged to continue working to address the opioid crisis, to take an “all of the above” strategy to economic development and to expand Medicaid on her first day in office.

Moody, 59, said he would “run the state like a business” as he pointed to the Moody’s Collision Centers auto body repair chain he started decades ago and now employs roughly 200 people in 11 locations. The Gorham resident pledged to continue much of LePage’s work to reduce taxes, reform welfare and streamline government but in a more collaborative and less controversial way.

Maine Political Report



He warned against turning Augusta “back over to the politicians” – an attempted swipe at Mills’ lengthy service as legislator and attorney general – but also highlighted his work on Maine’s university system and community college boards. Moody’s top campaign issues included cutting taxes, improving the business climate by reducing red tape, facilitating businesses to move to Maine and convincing more former Mainers as well as non-residents to live in the state.

Hayes has served two terms as state treasurer and previously represented the Buckfield area in the Legislature for eight years. The only publicly financed or Clean Elections candidate still in the governor’s race, Hayes pledged to bring a more bipartisan and collaborative approach to governing. While she was a strong supporter of Democratic issues such as access to abortion and Medicaid expansion, she also sought to pick up Republican votes by pledging to lower taxes and to support a statewide teacher contract.

Staff Writer Scott Thistle contributed to this story.

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: NoelinMaine

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: KevinMillerPPH