Former Gov. Paul LePage supporters cheer during his speech at the Augusta Civic Center in Augusta on Sept. 22, 2021. Credit: Shawn Patrick Ouellette / AP

​​The Maine Republican Party announced $3.9 million in TV ad bookings for the Maine gubernatorial campaign this fall, signaling greater investment as the party looks to claw back control in Augusta after four years with Democrats in power.

The initial reservation is more than the $2.5 million Republicans put toward TV in the entire 2018 gubernatorial race, according to state campaign finance data. Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, defeated Republican Shawn Moody with 51 percent of votes that year.

It suggests Republicans are more enthusiastic about LePage, who has the support of the state party ahead of June’s primary. The former two-term governor has a loyal base, although he never got 50 percent of votes statewide. He will likely have to in 2022 with strong odds of having no third candidate in a governor’s race here for the first time in 40 years.

Television ads from the state party’s booking are set to begin in August. That is a later start than Maine’s 2020 U.S. Senate race, when outside spending began more than a year prior to the election, picked up in earnest in June and finished around $110 million from outside groups.

Mills formally announced her reelection campaign in a video on Tuesday, although her campaign had been fundraising as well as collecting signatures ahead of the March 15 ballot deadline. The incumbent has maintained a slight fundraising advantage over LePage so far.

Maine’s gubernatorial races have continued to get more expensive in recent years, in line with a nationwide trend of increased spending on politics. The LePage-Mills race is expected to be one of the most expensive in state history, though it should fall well short of the massive total in the 2020 race between Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and Democrat Sara Gideon.

A report last year by AdImpact, a firm that tracks advertising for campaigns and other interested groups, predicted Maine will see $75 million in political advertising across radio, digital and television platforms in 2022. That total would include spending by both campaigns and outside groups on the gubernatorial election and the congressional campaign in the competitive 2nd District, as well as local races.