Maine State Senator Peter Mills

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Mills too good to remain on the sidelines

Morning Sentinel Editorial June 19, 2006

Is Peter Mills the smartest person in state government?

If he isn't, he's certainly in the running for the title. So it's unfortunate for the state and its citizens that it appears he will have no broad role in state government after his loss in this week's Republican gubernatorial primary to Farmington neighbor Chandler Woodcock.

Mills is still the state senator from Cornville and is running for reelection. But there's only so much one state senator can do -- which is exactly why he was running for governor.

It is also unfortunate that he has no role in the governor's race. Of all the candidates -- Democrat, Republican, Green and independent -- Mills stood out as the one with a vision, a plan, and the intelligence and experience to pull it off. Whether it was the best plan is debatable, but now it won't even be debated.

But that can be fixed. Woodcock could recognize that Mills can be a campaign asset on both the political and issue sides of the equation.

Politically, Mills is a moderate who appeals to the centrist voters who may feel that Gov. John Baldacci is too liberal and that Woodcock is too conservative. By making Mills part of his campaign, Woodcock could broaden his appeal.

But it is on the issue side that we -- all Mainers -- need Mills the most.

The 12-point plan he presented during the primary is a disciplined, nonideological approach to getting the state finances in better shape. It was a rare example of a politician telling difficult truths while also providing solutions. Those solutions would not have been easy to pull off, but it's to Mills' credit that he admitted that. The admission, though, came with the Mills determination to not give in without a fight.

In another state, the party nominee could ask a candidate like Mills to be his lieutenant governor. We don't have that position in Maine -- and we're not advocating for it. We are advocating for Woodcock to offer Mills a key role in his campaign that, if Woodcock were to win in November, would lead to a major appointment in a Woodcock administration.

We don't even know if Mills would accept such a offer. And the ideological difference between Woodcock and Mills on the social issues may be too wide for either man to accept a partnership.

We do know this, though: Peter Mills is too good a man to be on the sidelines.