FARMINGTON, Maine — And just like that, election season is back.
Maine’s gubernatorial election may be more than a year-and-a-half away, but Gov. Janet Mills' reelection campaign is underway.
While not an official campaign launch, Mills sent her first campaign fundraising email over the weekend and on Monday.
Titled “Maine’s perseverance,” Mills’ campaign email outlines the challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and looks towards a brighter future in Maine.
“We have been through a lot, but I still believe the best chapter in our state’s history has yet to be written, and I want to write it with you,” Mills said in the email. “Thank you for always being a part of my team, and standing by my side.”
Mills was elected in 2018, defeating Republican Shawn Moody 50.9 percent to 43.2 percent and becoming Maine's first female governor.
Mills’ time as governor has been largely dominated by the pandemic and resulting economic hardships.
"Governor Mills' steady and thoughtful leadership has made Maine one of the healthiest states in the nation during this pandemic, with the third-lowest COVID cases and fourth lowest COVID deaths," Maine Democratic Party Chairman Drew Gattine said in a statement to NEWS CENTER Maine on Monday. "The Governor is going to put an end to this pandemic and get our economy back on track, and when she announces she's running for reelection, we will do everything we can to support her."
Many Republicans in Maine, however, have criticized Mills’ response to the pandemic, including potential challenger, former Gov. Paul LePage.
In 2020, LePage told a radio talk show that Mills “ought to resign” over her plan for reopening the state’s economy and said he’ll “challenge Janet Mills or the Democratic Party in 2022.”
During a meeting with now-former President Trump and Maine fishing industry leaders last summer, talks shifted from fishing to Mills when LePage brought up her handling of the reopening the state amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"You have a governor that doesn't know what she's doing, and she's like a dictator," Trump said.
Despite seemingly announcing his run for governor to various radio and TV news reporters over the past year, LePage has not formally announced his campaign.
LePage told NEWS CENTER Maine last year he would wait until after the 2020 general election to announce his formal decision but he has not yet done so.
On Monday, LePage's senior political advisor during his time in office, Brent Littlefield, said, "My question would be, for what is Governor Mills raising money? Is it for her debt she carelessly and illegally left behind from her inauguration or for a future race?"
In a statement to NEWS CENTER Maine, Maine Republican Party Chair Dr. Demi Kouzounas said Mills is "about rhetoric, not results," and said her fundraising emails are "just another glaring example of that."
"While Janet Mills sits in her Augusta mansion, the real people of Maine see the results of her poor decisions: shuttered businesses, closed schools, and no clear direction for Maine," Kouzounas said. "She has tormented the people of Maine and destroyed family businesses that have been in our state for generations. To sit back and pretend everything is great and use cliche Democrat talking points to collect fundraising dollars from big donors is disrespectful to the people of Maine."
Maine's gubernatorial election is slated for Nov. 8, 2022.
The Janet Mills for Maine campaign did not immediately respond to NEWS CENTER Maine's request for comment.