- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 6, 2017

LISBON, Maine (AP) - Former Maine Health and Human Commissioner Mary Mayhew is running for governor, vowing to fight a defeatist attitude in state government and to continue changes she helped implement in the administration of Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

The former Democrat-turned-Republican made the announcement Tuesday and said that she has worked on behalf of the term-limited LePage to get the state’s finances in order and to implement welfare reforms that are getting people back to work. She said she wants Mainers to keep more of their money.

“I adamantly reject that growing government is the answer to our challenges,” she said.

Until Tuesday, Mayhew had been silent about her political future since stepping down from her administration post last month.

In the weeks before her departure, her department sent out news releases in which Mayhew touted her department’s accomplishments and criticized Democrats for promoting welfare expansion.

Mayhew made her formal announcement at the Dingley Press, a printing company in Lisbon, after first discussing her plans on WVOM-FM.

She described how the printing company adapted to changes in the marketplace. She said she wants Maine to have its “own comeback story.”

There are six other candidates for governor, but they lack the name recognition of Mayhew, who has received national attention and criticism from progressives for conservative welfare reforms that opponents say left Mainers behind during an opioid crisis.

Mayhew shepherded LePage’s agenda of focusing resources on the “most vulnerable.” Under Mayhew, Maine saw reinstated work requirements for food stamps recipients, drug-testing of some welfare recipients, and heightened investigation of individual welfare fraud.

In 2013, the state announced it paid off nearly $500 million in hospital debt, an amount that Medicaid expansion opponent Mayhew said was caused by a previous expansion.

She embraced her legacy Tuesday. “Those welfare programs were robbing people of their human dignity, of their independence, their self-sufficiency,” she said.

“There are so many people who want to undo what we’ve done. They want to take us backwards,” she said.

Mayhew, appointed as a Democrat in 2011, minimized her political background on Tuesday, and said she’s “changed.”

“I was a Democrat because my father was a Democrat,” Mayhew said.

As a 25-year-old, she served as Democrat Patrick McGowan’s campaign manager during a failed run for Congress against then-Republican U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe in 1990. She later worked as an influential lobbyist for groups like the Maine Hospital Association.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins has said she’s weighing whether to run for governor or stay in the U.S. Senate.

When asked about a potential Collins run, Mayhew said she’s ready to fight against whoever else runs. But she also expressed concern over Collins’ recent support for a Medicaid expansion plan in Maine.

The six other candidates who’ve announced so far include state Treasurer Teresa Hayes, an independent who recently locked horns with LePage in a dispute over bonds.

The others are libertarian Richard Light; Republican Deril Stubenrod, of Clinton; progressive activist and lobbyist Betsy Sweet; and two other Democrats, Patrick Eisenhart, a military retiree, and Portland lawyer and Army veteran Adam Cote.

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