Opinion

Maine’s attorney general candidates, in their own words

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Maine’s attorney general straddles two worlds.

Elected by the Legislature, the attorney general performs executive branch duties. The attorney general is the state’s top law enforcement officer, but also acts as the lawyer for state government’s departments and agencies.

It’s perhaps the second most powerful and influential elected position in the state — behind only the governor — but instead of being elected by voters statewide, the AG is selected by the members of the state House of Representatives and Senate in a joint convention.

Democrats have big majorities in both the House and the Senate and will pick the next AG. Five Democrats are running. No Republicans have publicly announced for the post, which will be filled on Dec. 5.

During six of the eight years of Gov. Paul LePage’s administration, Gov.-elect Janet Mills served as attorney general. She provided a critical check on LePage, who was prone to violating the law and governmental norms and getting the state involved in non-Maine legal matters to score ideological points with his right-wing base.

With Democrats in control of state government, the job of attorney general will look and feel different than under LePage. Opposition to President Donald Trump’s extra-legal activities could be a big part of the job, as well as work to repair damage done inside the executive branch after eight years of misuse and abuse by LePage.

Five Democrats, all lawyers, are running for this critical job. I asked them to provide 50-word explanations about why they’re running or one big idea they’d bring to the office. Below are their answers.

State Sen. Mike Carpenter of Houlton served as AG for four years in the early 1990s: “Multi-state litigation, the opioid crisis, tribal water quality lawsuit and its impact on tribal-state relations, the child protective system and the need for steady advice to new commissioners — all reasons for experienced leadership in the office. My legislative background and the ability to transition smoothly would well serve the state.”

State Sen. Mark Dion of Portland is the former sheriff of Cumberland County and ran for governor earlier this year: “First and foremost, I will keep Maine safe. I will address tribal sovereignty, place groundwater in the public trust, institute bail reform, advance ‘red flag’ and universal background checks legislation, expand indigent legal representation services to the family court. I am a lawyer, a former police officer, sheriff and legislator.”

State Rep. Aaron Frey of Bangor is a respected member of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee: “As attorney general, I’d work proactively in addressing the opiate crisis, advocating for victims of crime and corporate misconduct, engaging in meaningful criminal justice reform, facilitating respectful dialogue with Maine’s tribal nations, and working with the legislative and executive branches to promote Maine’s interests at the federal level.”

Maeghan Maloney of Augusta is the district attorney in Kennebec and Somerset counties and a former member of the Maine House of Representatives: “As AG, I would pursue criminal justice reform proactively through increasing access to addiction and mental health treatment and reactively through restorative justice; protect Maine’s environment at the state and federal level; repair the relationship with the Wabanaki Tribes; improve conditions for workers; and combat domestic violence with electronic monitoring.”

Tim Shannon of Yarmouth is a civil litigation attorney with Verrill Dana. He ran against Mills for attorney general in 2012: “With 17 years’ experience, now at Maine’s largest firm managing teams of lawyers across a range of public and private matters, I will work tirelessly to protect all Mainers, especially the most vulnerable, restore tribal relations, hold big Pharma accountable, reform criminal justice and stand up to the Trump administration.”

For more information on the candidates, you should check out the Maine Beacon podcast, which interviewed the candidates, and read the Bangor Daily News’ breakdown of the race.

David Farmer is a public affairs, political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children. He was senior adviser to Democrat Mike Michaud’s 2014 campaign for governor.

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