AUGUSTA, Maine — A recently reserved website domain name hints that Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew could be moving closer to a run for governor in 2018.

Nobody has formally declared a run to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Paul LePage. But Mayhew was among more than a dozen people who responded to the Bangor Daily News in December 2016 to say they’re either considering runs or gave neutral answers.

However, digital clues found on Thursday by the BDN showed that two potential Republican candidates — Mayhew of South China and Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls — may be moving closer to running for the Blaine House.

A domain registration service registered on Tuesday, almost exactly a year after was registered. The latter name would expire in 2019.

Mayhew didn’t respond to an email seeking comment on Thursday, but she has been rumored to be mulling a run since at least 2014. When asked about it last month, she said she was “very focused” on her work at DHHS.

Roy Lenardson, a Republican strategist with ties to some in Mayhew’s department, said he was “not the right person to ask” about the registrations, but if asked by a potential candidate, he would tell them “June is a good time to lay the groundwork and get busy.”

Mason, a fourth-term senator from Lisbon Falls, registered and started Twitter and Instagram accounts under the same name in June. Until Thursday, metadata in several of the website’s pages included the description “Garrett Mason for Governor of Maine.”

On Thursday, Mason blamed the “for governor” reference on an “ambitious intern” who created a new website and social media accounts for him last spring. He said he didn’t authorize it and that it was removed after it was flagged on Thursday.

Mason said he’ll “definitely have a decision by summer” on running for governor, but said that he’s considering it is “probably one of the worst-kept secrets in Augusta.”

Domain names linked to two potential Democratic candidates — Lee Auto Malls Chairman Adam Lee and former Maine Senate President Justin Alfond — also were reserved separately more than a year ago.

Lee of Cumberland confirmed reserving in March 2015 in case of a run, saying he’s “still mulling” one and would “need to decide in the next month or two.”

And — a potential reference to Alfond of Portland — was registered in January 2016 and renewed on Jan. 7. He didn’t immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment but said in December that he’s considering a run.

Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...