A composite photo of former Maine Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, and Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat. Credit: BDN composite

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Janet Mills kept her fundraising head start over former Gov. Paul LePage ahead of their likely 2022 showdown, raising just over $1 million to his roughly $900,000 over the second half of last year.

Both candidates’ fundraising totals surpass what they had raised at this point during previous gubernatorial campaigns. It could foreshadow an expensive general election between the two later this year, though money has not exploded into gubernatorial races as much as congressional ones in Maine over the past decade or so.

The Democratic incumbent’s fundraising comes on top of the more than $500,000 that she had brought in through June of last year. Her campaign had a bit shy of $1.3 million cash on hand as of the end of December. LePage, a Republican who was reporting fundraising numbers for the first time after officially entering the race in early July, had around $600,000 cash left.

Those numbers were released by the Mills and LePage campaigns on Tuesday, before they filed full reports with the Maine Ethics Commission. Full reports accounting for contributions and spending were due by midnight.

Mills previously brought in more than $3 million over the course of her 2018 campaign, significantly outraising Republican opponent Shawn Moody. That total surpassed what LePage raised during either of his successful campaigns in 2010 or 2014, although he won both races despite being outspent.

Political campaigns in Maine have continued to get more expensive in recent years. The 2020 U.S. Senate race between U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and Democratic challenger Sara Gideon blew through campaign finance records, with a combined more than $200 million spent between the party candidates and outside groups.

LePage has maintained a relatively low profile since announcing his long-anticipated campaign over the summer, although he has made appearances at local party events and on talk radio and a floated a repeal of Mills’ COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers and an end to state income tax as key campaign issues.

Mills has generally avoided discussing her reelection amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. She has strongly defended her response to the virus, noting Maine’s low death rate compared with most other U.S. states.