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James Erwin, at 84; former attorney general of Maine

PORTLAND, Maine -- James Erwin, a former Maine attorney general who ran unsuccessfully for governor twice, died Thursday, two days after suffering a stroke. Mr. Erwin was 84 years old.

A leading figure in the Maine Republican Party, Mr. Erwin served in the House and Senate before winning three terms as attorney general from 1967 through 1972. In 1970, Mr. Erwin ran for governor but lost by 500 votes to the Democratic incumbent, Kenneth Curtis. Four years later, he lost again, that time in a three-way race that was won by independent James Longley. George Mitchell, a Democrat, finished second.

After his second Blaine House loss, Mr. Erwin returned to his law practice in York, where he remained for the next 30 years.

Mr. Erwin was remembered by political associates as a fiscal conservative, moderate on social issues, and a dedicated environmentalist. He established the environmental division of the attorney general's office and was involved in the creation of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.

Prominent Maine Republicans mourned Mr. Erwin's death.

''He was a very great gentleman," said Robert A. G. Monks of Cape Elizabeth, who described Mr. Erwin as ''a very principled politician" who was never known for negative attacks during campaigns.

US Senator Olympia Snowe and her husband, former governor John McKernan, called Mr. Erwin ''an honorable man and a public servant of the highest caliber."

McKernan, also a former congressman, noted that the first political campaign he worked on was Mr. Erwin's gubernatorial race in 1970, when he served as Mr. Erwin's driver. Snowe said she held an informal gathering in support of his candidacy that year. ''We saw firsthand how deeply he cared about the people of Maine and building an even brighter future for our state," said Snowe.

Mr. Erwin was born in New York City and grew up in Englewood, N.J. He spent his summers on his mother's family's farm in South Berwick, which is now the site of Berwick Academy. He graduated from Dartmouth College and served in the Army during World War II.

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