Maine gubernatorial candidate Janet Mills Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik

After eight years of economic stagnation, bad mouthing Maine, unnecessary battles between Gov. Paul LePage and lawmakers, and dramatic cutbacks to the state’s social safety net that have left the state’s most vulnerable without the services and support they need, Maine is at a crossroads. Voters can choose a new direction built on competence and experience or they can stay the current course.

Our vote is for a new direction with Janet Mills.

Mills, Maine’s attorney general, has the diversity and depth of experience to be an effective governor. She served three terms in the Legislature. She also worked as an assistant attorney general and was the first female district attorney in New England as she represented Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties.

As attorney general, Mills, a Democrat, was one of the few people to effectively stand up to LePage — and to act as a check on some of his worst policies and impulses. She fought to ensure thousands of young adults kept their health insurance, and her office bought Narcan for first responders when LePage refused to make the overdose-reversing drug more available.

Mills’ focus on improving the lives of Mainers, no matter their status, would be a needed and refreshing change.

Her chief competitor, Republican Shawn Moody, is a successful businessman who has built a growing chain of car repair facilities. As we’ve learned from LePage and President Donald Trump, a broader set of skills, beyond running a business, is needed to be a governor.

Moody, who thankfully is more positive and less combative than LePage, has pledged to continue many of the current governor’s policies. We don’t believe a continuation of the LePage legacy of measuring government success solely based on shrinking the number of people served and dollars spent instead of whether residents’ lives have improved is in Maine’s best interest.

We, and voters, don’t know where Moody really stands on important issues. On multiple topics, he said one thing when he ran for governor in 2010 as an independent, something else in this year’s Republican gubernatorial primary and, often, something different during the general election campaign. Voters can’t take a chance that he will govern differently from what he is promising now.

Mills’ positions, on the other hand, are straightforward and pragmatic.

Expanding Medicaid to provide health insurance to more poor, working Mainers — as voters directed the state to do last year after years of obstruction from LePage — is a priority for Mills. Moody, on the other hand, now says Medicaid expansion is the law and should be funded, but he called for its repeal just months ago.

A recent report from the Maine Department of Labor warned that Maine is on track to create just 94 net new jobs by 2026, highlighting the need for a new economic vision for Maine. Mills has offered a detailed economic plan that, while not groundbreaking, includes new ideas such as a student loan forgiveness program for entrepreneurs who create new jobs and tax incentives to encourage workers to move to Maine. Moody calls for regulatory reform, including speedier processing of permits and reduced fees, as well as a reduction in heating and electricity costs, which sounds very much like LePage’s economic development plan, which hasn’t worked.

Mills calls for an audit of the Department of Health and Human Services, which has curtailed and outsourced needed programs, mismanaged others, improperly shifted money, and left too many Mainers hungry, poor and in danger — all while decreasing transparency and accountability. Moody wants to continue “ welfare reform.”

On the environment, the deadly opioid crisis and many other issues, Mills offers detailed proposals while Moody mostly offers vague and recycled ideas.

Two independents in the race, State Treasurer Terry Hayes and businessman Alan Caron, also offer dozens of good ideas, but neither is gaining traction with voters. Hayes’ call for civility is well placed, but it alone won’t solve any of Maine’s vexing problems. Caron has offered ideas for remaking Maine for decades, but few have become reality, and that is not changing with his campaign for governor.

Ranked-choice voting will not be used in the governor’s race, so a vote for Hayes or Caron takes a vote away from Mills or Moody.

Maine voters have a stark choice in the candidates for Maine’s next governor. Mills is the best choice for a fresh, consistent, competent and compassionate direction to a more prosperous future.

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