AUGUSTA — Attorney General Janet Mills won the Democratic nomination for governor on Wednesday following the nation’s first use of ranked-choice voting to decide a statewide election.

Janet Mills talks to reporters Wednesday after final ranked-choice vote totals showed she had won the Democratic nomination for governor. At left is Secretary of State Matt Dunlap.

After days of scanning, downloading and certifying ballots, the Secretary of State’s Office ran all of the results from last Tuesday’s election through the ranked-choice voting tabulation software. The result: Mills won the seven-person primary with 54.1 percent of the vote, followed by veteran and attorney Adam Cote with 45.9 percent, in unofficial results.

Mills, a former legislator and district attorney from Farmington, will face off against Republican Shawn Moody and two independents, Alan Caron and Terry Hayes, in November’s race for governor.

“We got to campaign for the past 11 months with such very fine people, with six other Democrats who all had the best interests of Maine at heart, who shared ideas,” Mills said shortly after the tabulations were finalized. “We got to know each other and we got to know thousands of people from across the state of Maine. I learned something new every day from the other candidates and the people of Maine.”

Asked her plan for taking on Moody, Mills smiled and replied: “You’ll hear about it, in due course.”

Moody, a Gorham resident who founded an autobody repair chain, won last week’s Republican primary outright, avoiding a ranked-choice tabulation by capturing 56 percent of the vote in the four-person race.

Cote vowed to support Mills.

“Janet Mills won this race,” he said. “She was strong everywhere across the state, as her vote totals show. Our primary is over and it is time for all Democrats and all Mainers who want to see a better future for our state to get involved and help Janet run the strongest campaign possible and win in November.”

With the ranked-choice tabulations now complete, the primary results set up a race between a businessman with no political experience but who won broad appeal in Republican ranks and a Democratic attorney general with decades in state government. The pair and the two independents will be vying to replace Gov. Paul LePage, a controversial and brash-talking Republican still beloved by many in his party but strongly disliked by many Democrats.

Although ranked-choice voting has been used in several cities across the country – including Portland, Maine’s largest municipality – last week’s Maine primaries were the first time in the nation the process was used in statewide elections.

Under the ranked-choice system, voters select candidates in order of preference. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the first count, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated. Voters who preferred the eliminated candidate would then have their ballots added to the totals of their second-ranked candidates, and the ballots would be retabulated. The process continues until one candidate has a majority and is declared the winner.

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