State Treasurer Terry Hayes, left, is running for governor as an independent while Attorney General Janet Mills is the Democratic nominee.

Gov. Paul LePage is calling on Attorney General Janet Mills and State Treasurer Terry Hayes to resign or take leaves of absence from their respective positions in state government while they run for governor.

Mills and Hayes have not-so-politely declined the governor’s suggestion.

In separate letters sent Monday, LePage told Mills and Hayes that they should step down and stop taking taxpayer-funded paychecks “to avoid any potential conflict of interest.” While LePage’s letter to Hayes – one of two independents running for governor – was more straightforward, the governor took a political swipe at Mills as he accused the Democrat of “pretending to serve as a full-time attorney general” while campaigning for the Blaine House.

“You are clearly not doing the job as attorney general for the people of Maine,” LePage wrote to Mills, with whom he has clashed repeatedly and publicly over the past several years. “For example, you have refused to represent the Executive Branch in several legal matters of vital importance to the Maine people, and it appears you are using your office as a campaign headquarters.”

Unsurprisingly, neither Hayes nor Mills seemed intent on heeding LePage’s call.

“This is the kind of partisan B.S. that shows the real need for a non-partisan chief executive,” Hayes said in an interview. “When I’m governor, I’ll be focusing on doing my job instead of spending my time telling other people how to do theirs.”

Mills campaign spokesman Scott Ogden said the attorney general “will continue to do her job, do it well, and promote opportunity and a new, better direction for Maine.”

“Of course Governor LePage would want Janet out of the way,” Ogden said in a prepared statement. “She has successfully stood up to him and for the interests of Maine people – and he doesn’t like it. But the governor would better serve Maine people by spending less time trying to play attack dog for his candidate Shawn Moody and more time focusing on fixing the failures of his administration, like yesterday’s report from his own Department of Labor saying that Maine is poised to have virtually no job growth over the next eight years.”

Mills and Hayes are two of the four candidates running to succeed LePage this November. The other two are Republican nominee and businessman Shawn Moody and independent economic development consultant Alan Caron. LePage’s daughter, Lauren, is Moody’s campaign manager and the governor’s longtime political adviser, Brent Littlefield, is a strategist on the Moody campaign.

LePage and the Maine Republican Party have accused Mills on numerous occasions of using her high-profile office to prop up her gubernatorial campaign – a common allegation against politicians and public officials who are also running campaigns.

At the same time, Democrats have often accused LePage of using his office to try to inflict political harm on rivals. In the highest-profile case, LePage successfully pressured a nonprofit to rescind a job offer to former House Speaker Mark Eves.

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And until Tuesday, LePage had refused to release more than $1 million in public campaign financing owed to Hayes and more than 100 legislative candidates participating in Maine’s Clean Elections program. The vast majority of Clean Elections candidates in legislative races this year are Democrats, leading to charges that LePage – a vocal critic of using taxpayer dollars for what he calls “welfare for politicians” – is trying to starve Democrats of funding in order to benefit Republican candidates.

During his 2010 campaign for governor, LePage stayed on as mayor of Waterville – a position with much less responsibility than attorney general or state treasurer – until just before his inauguration. Nor has LePage called on Republican candidates holding the same or similar offices to resign during previous elections.

In 2012, for instance, Secretary of State Charlie Summers, Attorney General William Schneider and State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin all sought the Republican nomination to succeed U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe. LePage did not publicly call on any of the three men to resign, even after Summers won the party’s nomination. Summers continued to serve as secretary of state that year.

In his letters to Mills and Hayes, however, LePage noted that his administration’s former commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services, Mary Mayhew, resigned from her position in order to run for governor. Mayhew lost to Moody in the four-person Republican primary June 12.

“I call on you to do the honorable thing and step down too,” LePage wrote.

LePage first hinted last week that he would call on Mills to resign in comments he made during an event for a Republican legislative candidate. The comments were captured in a live video posted on Facebook, although the video was apparently removed from Facebook after Democratic campaign strategist David Farmer wrote about it in a Bangor Daily News blog.

LePage bristled at a television news reporter last week when he was asked about the video and whether he planned to ask Mills to resign.

“I’m not asking her. What are you doing to me?” LePage said before walking away from the television crew outside of his State House office. But just before stepping outside, LePage turned around and, pointing to WGME-TV’s Marissa Bodnar, added, “You are one bad lady.”

He sent the letters to Mills and Hayes four days later.

Staff Writer Scott Thistle contributed to this report.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: KevinMillerPPH

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