Paul LePage, with his wife, Ann, addresses supporters in Lewiston Tuesday night when it became clear that he wasn’t going to become Maine’s first three-term governor. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The political showdown between Janet Mills and Paul LePage began as a national race to watch, a projected toss-up between a first-term Democrat and a returning Trump-styled Republican that might tell us something about the national mood.

On Election Day, the Maine version of this national political drama came to a blunt ending: Mills crushed LePage. She won 55% of the statewide vote to LePage’s 43%, managing to beat him even in Lewiston, LePage’s hometown, and Waterville, where LePage had been mayor.

In a defiant speech Tuesday night, LePage said he didn’t fare as well as he’d hoped because Maine voters cared more about abortion than their wallets, then called Mills dishonest and an elitist. Many observers say it was that kind of outburst that sealed LePage’s fate, and his party’s.

“I think that was a beautiful farewell from Paul LePage, trademark really, because no one can be under any illusion that he had changed into any kind of statesman,” said Republican strategist Lance Dutson, who has frequently clashed with LePage. “He was just a maniac with a short fuse.”

The overwhelming loss marks the end of LePage’s political career, Dutson said. As the party decides how to move forward, deciding on its legislative leaders and even approaching potential candidates for the next top races, LePage’s shadow over the party will fade, he said.

“There will be some finger-pointing, yes, but it’s really all about who’ll fill the vacuum,” Dutson said.


University of Maine Professor Rob Glover called Election 2022 a kind of crossroads for Maine’s GOP – a “stinging loss” that will likely lead to a Republican post-mortem questioning whether “doubling down” on retread candidates like LePage is the right strategy moving forward.

“I think this really is a moment of reckoning for the Republican Party in Maine,” Glover said. “I think this was also a referendum on LePage’s combative, divisive eight years and some conservative voters not wanting to go back to that. I heard more conservative voters essentially expressing frustration.”

He said Republicans made “Herculean” efforts to shift the focus away from reproductive rights – LePage is anti-abortion, but said he wouldn’t change the state abortion law – to emphasize cost of living, crime, substance use and even immigration, but that “just didn’t land for lots of voters.”

“This is particularly the case for younger voters,” Glover said. “We saw them turn out in force, in both Maine and nationally, and overwhelmingly support Democratic candidates. Here in Orono, students turned out in force and I think for a lot of them this was the central issue motivating them.”

He said Maine Democrats identified communities Mills lost in 2018 that could be turned in a Mills-LePage matchup, like Hampden, where Glover lives, and Lewiston. They mounted intensive field operations there. Both communities ended up going blue on Tuesday, Glover said.

Dutson described LePage as an accidental governor – “the wrong man in the right place at the right time” who would have been a has-been if not for a three-way race in 2010 that landed him in the bully pulpit at the Blaine House and gave him the power of incumbency. He didn’t have that in 2022.


Independent candidate Sam Hunkler had only received 2 percent of the vote as of Wednesday night. In 2010 and 2014, LePage had benefited from stronger third-party candidates who cut into the vote count of his Democratic opponents, Dutson said.

University of Maine Politics Department Chairman Mark Brewer attributed LePage’s 2022 loss to the lack of a viable third-party candidate, his opponent was an incumbent widely perceived as having done a “pretty good job,” and the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court abortion ruling.

“I think it shows they need a more establishment-Republican type,” Brewer said about what Tuesday means for the Maine GOP. “I do think that inflation was the top issue for most voters, but that abortion was also very important for many voters, especially persuadable voters.”

But not everyone agreed. Steve Robinson, a conservative analyst who writes for The Maine Wire, said Wednesday that the 2022 elections will go down in history as “one of the most humiliating defeats ever suffered by Maine Republicans,” which he likened to an endangered species.

In an online post-mortem, Robinson wrote that he believes that LePage lost because he tried to soften his reputation as a bully to win over moderate voters who were never going to vote for him in the first place and cost him the support of those that voted for him in the past.

“Whereas the LePage of 2010 and 2014 achieved stardom by hurling rhetorical Molotov cocktails at progressives, LePage 2.0 seemed overly controlled –timid in the face of an incumbent whose chief accomplishment was an authoritarian, unscientific lockdown of the state,” Robinson wrote.

Neither LePage nor his campaign staff responded to requests for an interview Wednesday. He issued a four-sentence statement on Wednesday on Facebook and Twitter that said he accepted the results of the election. As of Wednesday evening, LePage had not called Mills to concede.

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story