Maine State Senator Peter Mills

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GOP adds Mills in race for governor

      Wednesday, August 03, 2005 - Bangor Daily News

AUGUSTA - Maine Republicans will have at least two choices for governor next June after state Sen. Peter Mills officially announced Tuesday he will seek the GOP nomination for the Blaine House.

"I've got a plan for Maine," Mills said. "I've got a 12-point plan, and I want to get elected on the basis of it so that people will say: 'We have to do this plan because that's what he ran on.' I want a mandate to get something done."

The Cornville lawyer confirmed he met Monday with Peter Cianchette who asked him to reconsider entering the race.

"He was very courteous and he gave me the arguments for [staying out]," Mills said. "He raised the issue of unity. My response to that is we need unity in the worst way - we need unity around a plan, and I think I've got the plan."

Last week, Cianchette announced he was taking out nomination papers to stage his second bid for governor in three years. Defeated by Democratic incumbent Gov. John E. Baldacci in 2002, Cianchette, a former lawmaker from South Portland, also had a primary opponent in June of that year. He defeated James Libby of Buxton, a former state legislator who ran a publicly funded campaign.

Mills has yet to decide whether he will run as a publicly or privately funded candidate, but said he is leaning more heavily toward staging a traditional privately funded campaign which allows for greater flexibility in addressing last-minute spending against a similarly funded opponent. Costs for the gubernatorial primary and ensuing general election are expected to run between $1.5 million and $2 million. "I think I can raise the money," Mills said. "No one can contribute more than $500 [during each election cycle]. In my mental Rolodex, I've got hundreds of people I think I can call on for a few hundred dollars, and I've got friends with similar Rolodexes in their heads. The days of going to a sugar daddy and asking them to fund your campaign are over."

Baldacci has said he will seek a second term next year, while Nancy Oden of Jonesboro, an independent who has been active in environmental and peace issues, is seeking to qualify for public financing in the race, as is Republican Stephen Stimpson of Bangor.

Mills, 62, is perceived as a moderate within the Senate GOP caucus who prides himself on relying on his "own views" and who has been known to part company with Republicans in order to cast a vote with the Democrats if he thinks they have a better idea. He is a 1965 graduate of Harvard College and served for five years as a line officer aboard destroyers in the U.S. Navy with deployments to Vietnam where he was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal. He also served in the central Pacific and the Mediterranean. He later conducted intelligence missions against the Soviet Union for which he was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal.

In the Maine House and Senate since 1994, Mills has served on the Judiciary, Labor, Taxation and Appropriations committees and on numerous state commissions and select committees. He said he was proudest of the role he played in the reformation of the state's unemployment compensation commission system, which he said was "in serious disarray" in the late 1990s.

"I worked with labor, the chamber of commerce, and the National Federation of Independent Businesses as one of the chief mediators to bring resolution to that mess," he said. "Now we have one of the top eight unemployment systems in the United States. The taxes to fund it are reasonable, and it was a huge achievement."

As the state continues to grapple with increased demands and declining funding for its social service programs with struggling administrative structures, Mills said the first step in his plan would address problems at the embattled Department of Health and Human Services.

"The key thing about the unemployment compensation system was that we were able to bring accountability to the system, something that's needed throughout state government," he said. "The reason that the Department of Health and Human Services keeps popping up in the news every month is because it's not being run like a private company should run. I think the governor's biggest job is to grab ahold of that agency and see what could be done to reform it."

The candidate said he would elaborate on each of his 12 points as the campaign unfolds in the coming months.

Mills is married to Maine Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills and has three adult children and two grandchildren.