More than 120 Republican candidates for the Maine State House and Senate vowed Monday to oust Attorney General Aaron Frey if the Republican Party takes control of the State Legislature in November. The pledge follows his refusal to sue the federal government in defense of Maine’s lobstering industry.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a federal environmental regulatory agency within the Commerce Department, has proposed whale entanglement rules that the lobstering industry says will be expensive and unproductive, harming Maine’s lobstermen while doing little more to protect wildlife.
Opposition to the rule has engulfed Maine’s state and federal elections, as Republicans claim Democratic Gov. Janet Mills and Frey, also a Democrat, are not doing enough to protect the industry.
Mills granted the state intervenor status in lawsuit filed by the Maine Lobstermen’s Association against the National Marine Fisheries Service, which is part of NOAA, last December. That status allows the state to advocate for an outcome in the lawsuit.
In response to earlier industry advocates’ calls for the state to sue NOAA, Frey said in a statement that doing so would be “legally insignificant.”
“My office has spent countless hours over years defending and protecting Maine’s lobster industry against unsubstantiated NOAA rulemaking,” Frey said. “Any suggestion to the contrary ignores the years of legal work that has gone into this defense.”
Mills similarly says she’s doing all she can to protect Maine lobstermen from harmful regulations. Last Tuesday, she directed $100,000 in taxpayer funding from the governor’s contingency account to the Lobstermen’s Association to support their legal battle.
But Republican lawmakers say more can be done and claim Maine Democrats are actually aligned with far left environmentalists who have long opposed Maine’s vibrant lobstering industry.
In an email blast, the Maine Republican Party shared the names of the lawmakers who are vowing to oust Frey should Republicans have control of the legislature, which selects constitutional officers like the Attorney General, after Election Day. The Party repeated calls for the state to file its own lawsuit rather than advocate alongside the Lobstermen’s Association.
“Gov. Janet Mills and Attorney General Aaron Frey have so far refused to take this critical step to defend the lobster industry,” the Party said in a statement. “Mills and her party continue to gain political support and financing from the anti-lobster environmental progressives, and Mills has been booed in recent days by lobstermen because she has refused to directly sue the deeply unpopular Biden administration.”
Under President Joe Biden, Democrats in Maine’s congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., have voted to increase NOAA’s taxpayer funding by more than $6 billion.