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Janet Mills becomes Maine’s first woman governor

She takes over for the controversial, term-limited Paul LePage.

Janet Mills campaigns as part of the Maine gubernatorial race.
Gabe Souza/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

Maine has elected state Attorney General Janet Mills as governor, which makes her the first woman to hold the state’s highest office.

Mills is one of a record-breaking 16 women — including incumbents — who ran for gubernatorial seats across the country this cycle. She beat out Republican business executive Shawn Moody on Tuesday and will take over the seat from controversial, term-limited Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

Mills billed herself as a major departure from the tempestuous LePage, who has led efforts to block Medicaid expansion in the state even after voters approved the move in a ballot initiative. LePage was also known for a series of racist remarks he made, including one in which he said “the enemy right now” was primarily made up of “people of color.” Moody, the Republican gubernatorial nominee, wasn’t quite as bombastic but had said he intended to continue LePage’s legacy.

Mills clashed with LePage for much of her time as attorney general; he once even sued her after she refused to represent him in various federal cases. During her tenure, she repeatedly opposed his efforts on a number of issues including his attempts to curb Medicaid and to sue the Obama administration over guidance that aimed to protect transgender students’ rights.

The governor-elect has pledged a fresh start and detailed plans to increase access to Medicaid and fund these efforts with $35 million she secured from a tobacco settlement, according to the Boston Globe. She has also raised issues like providing broadband access in rural areas and addressing the state’s opioid crisis as some of her chief priorities.

“I will always be pragmatic and collaborative, and together we will write our state’s next chapter,” Mills tweeted ahead of the election.

While the race was a relatively competitive one that was rated as a toss-up by Cook Political Report, Mills entered the final days with slight polling and fundraising advantages. Her win bolsters the ranks of women in governorships across the country, an office where they are currently underrepresented.

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