Democrat Elizabeth “Libby” Mitchell is facing Republican challenger Kevin Sullivan in her run for a second term as Kennebec County probate judge.

This race is a replay of the contest four years ago, when they ran for the vacant seat that had been held by Mitchell’s husband James for 37 years until his death in September 2016. Mitchell won that race with nearly 33,000 votes to the almost 24,000 votes Sullivan received without actively campaigning.

Sullivan declined to be interviewed or provide any information for this story.

Mitchell said serving as as probate judge is a extraordinary opportunity to help people when they’re at their most vulnerable.

“It’s a chance to use my law degree, my experience with family mediation and foreclosure mediation, as well as my community experience over the decades when people come to probate court,” she said.

The probate court is the voice for people who don’t have a voice, including children whose parents temporarily can’t take care of them or adults who need help caring for themselves and their finances. It also plays a role in wills and estates and oversees adoptions.

Two years ago, the state of Maine implemented a new probate code, changes Mitchell and all the other probate judges have been learning.

“It’s an attempt to protect people even more than we do,” she said.

Mitchell said probate court is very nimble; people don’t have to wait weeks to see a judge or get help from the court’s staff, particularly in the event of an emergency such as the appointment of a guardian. Since the start of the global coronavirus pandemic, court hearings have been held using Zoom, an online conferencing platform. The court’s staff remains accessible to people, although they now have to make appointments to ensure social distancing can take place.

Mitchell said she has a lifetime of public service where she has demonstrated to people — particularly in probate court — integrity, knowledge of the statutes and fairness.

“I also think compassion is an extraordinarily important component to being a good probate judge,” she said. “I do believe I have the experience and the compassion to get the job done.”

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