AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Janet Mills and former Gov. Paul LePage will face each other in four televised debates ahead of their high-stakes November election.
It will be must-see TV in political circles when the two longtime rivals begin debating in early October, just over a month before Election Day. Mills, a Democrat, served as attorney general during most of the former Republican governor’s eight-year tenure and won the 2018 race to succeed him on broad promises to undo much of his legacy.
LePage and Mills will meet first in an Oct. 4 debate hosted by Maine Public and the Portland Press Herald, then will go to an untelevised Portland Chamber of Commerce breakfast two days later. After a break, WGME and the Bangor Daily News will host them on Oct. 24 for an in-studio debate at the CBS affiliate’s Portland studio.
The schedule will wind down with an Oct. 27 News Center Maine debate and the final one on Nov. 3 hosted by WMTW of Portland, WABI of Bangor and WAGM of Presque Isle. The final debate will come just five days before Election Day.
Independent Sam Hunkler, a doctor from Beals who is also on the ballot, is expected to make at least one debate appearance and perhaps more. The BDN and WGME invite candidates who reach 5 percent in any one public poll, while WMTW, WAGM and WABI use a higher threshold.
While Hunkler is a political unknown and has vowed to spend almost no money on his race, he could be a factor in an election that will not use ranked-choice voting. Mills led LePage in the last public polls of their race in the spring, but her lead was small and within margins of error.
There were some conflicts on their schedules. LePage accepted an Oct. 11 forum invitation from the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce in Waterville. He served as the city’s mayor from 2004 to 2011 and the chamber’s CEO, Kim Lindlof, was the finance director for his 2010 campaign. Mills did not accept that forum and her campaign did not answer a question about it.
Mills accepted an untelevised Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce debate on the morning of Oct. 6. LePage’s campaign said the former governor had accepted an earlier invitation to meet Mills there on Wednesday that she declined and he was “evaluating” the other date.