Former Gov. Paul LePage speaks at a campaign rally before the arrival of then-Vice President Mike Pence on Monday at Dysart's in Hermon on Oct. 19, 2020. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Update: Former Gov. Paul LePage made his long-awaited 2022 run against Gov. Janet Mills official on Thursday. Read the latest story here.

AUGUSTA, Maine — An online countdown clock indicates that former two-term Gov. Paul LePage may launch his 2022 campaign against Gov. Janet Mills on Monday, setting up a long-awaited battle between the two archrivals.

A campaign website that launched by Wednesday evening seems to indicate the timing of LePage’s announcement, though he will have to file with the Maine Ethics Commission to make a run official. His political strategist, Brent Littlefield, declined comment on Thursday morning, but the site indicates that it was designed by veteran Maine Republican operative Joe Turcotte. The site’s directory contains several family images and a campaign logo.

It is an expected step for LePage, who battled often with the Democratic governor during his tenure in the Blaine House and hers as attorney general. After Mills won the 2018 race to succeed the term-limited LePage with the first majority win for a non-incumbent since 1966, the Republican immediately said he may run against her in next year’s election.

Mills has largely worked to overturn LePage’s legacy in office, implementing the voter-approved Medicaid expansion that he resisted. She and fellow Democrats have raised state spending without raising taxes under the governor’s 2018 campaign pledge, but this year has been marked by differences between Mills and progressives on issues from taxes to criminal justice.

LePage likely enters as an underdog. While he has an enthusiastic base as the most beloved figure in Maine’s conservative grassroots, he has never been widely popular, topping out at a 47 percent approval rating in 2011 during his eight-year tenure. Mills has consistently been above that mark, registering at 57 percent in a recent Digital Research, Inc. poll.

Any race between LePage and Mills could also be complicated by a third candidate, since Maine’s ranked-choice voting system is not in effect for state general elections. The former governor won in 2010 and 2014 with independent Eliot Cutler running both times, nearly beating him in the first run and fading to a distant third place in the second.

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Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after time at the Kennebec Journal. He lives in Augusta, graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and has a master's degree from the University...