Lewiston Mayoral Election Progresses into Runoff

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The mayoral race for the city of Lewiston will continue until December 12, where voters will have the chance to choose between Ben Chin and Shane Bouchard.

Early voting will be going on at Lewiston City Hall until December 7, and Election Day voting on December 12 will be at Longley Elementary School on Birch Street. Absentee ballots are also available. Contact the Harward Center for more information.

Chin, a Bates alum of the class of 2003, is a progressive community organizer who has worked closely with the Maine People’s Alliance on issues such as increasing minimum wage and tax increases for wealthy brackets to fund local schools. Chin has stressed the importance of mitigating Lewiston’s housing crisis, specifically with regard to the pervasive practice of slum lording. Chin also hopes to implement something he calls a “belonging agenda”: a system that aims to quell the Lewiston opioid epidemic through public health reform and education.

Bouchard is a strong conservative and the incumbent city councilor for Ward Four, as well as the owner of a landscaping business. Bouchard vehemently opposed the Lewiston-Auburn merger, though he clarified that he would ultimately support the decision of the people. He has emphasized the importance of changing Lewiston’s “image problem” in order to attract business and generally rebuild the city. Finally, he hopes to dismantle the root causes stunting economic development in Lewiston.

Chin, when asked why he believes he should be supported by Bates students, remarked that “at a time when racial demagogues who brag about sexual assault can be elected president, it’s important to demonstrate at the local level a different way forward. My campaign is about building momentum for change that people of all backgrounds–young, old, rich, poor, all races and genders–can get behind. It’s the only way we are going to tackle problems as local as parking, and as big as economic inequality and racial disparities.” He went on to say that “we have an opportunity on December 12 to show the world it can be done, and it’s essential we do it together.”

Bouchard could not be reached for comment.

I spoke with two Bates students, one who supports Chin and the other who supports Bouchard. Roy Mathews ’21, a moderate Republican from Columbia, South Carolina, is in support of Bouchard. “Overall, I would say that socially I’m probably the most liberal person on this campus. But economically, I’m pretty conservative. I don’t believe you should spend money that you don’t have.” Reflecting on his support for Bouchard, Mathews remarked that he was not initially compelled by Bouchard’s policies until he was able to learn more about his personal background. “When I started talking to him, he told me about how he was raised on food stamps by a single mother. I was inspired by his story, which doesn’t happen a lot.” In terms of policy, Mathews was most convinced by Bouchard’s fiscally conservative economic proposals. “Back in South Carolina, we used to throw money at everyone who didn’t have a job, and that put us in debt, which resulted in a huge corruption case about ways to get rid of that debt illegally.” The most crucial action for Lewiston, in Mathews’ opinion, is thus job development. “Shane’s focus on job prospects in Lewiston,” started Mathews, “with the mills and trying to revitalize them, I would say that’s the biggest component for me.”

Conversely, Lars Gundersen ’20 of Freeport, Maine, voiced his support for Chin. Gundersen identifies as an independent, and has worked for several canvassing initiatives throughout Lewiston and the greater Maine area. Though he has primarily supported Democratic candidates in the past, Gundersen expressed that he has felt alienated by both parties. “I think Ben Chin has a concrete vision for what he wants to achieve for Lewiston: like addressing the housing situation downtown and issues of economic development.” In explaining his support for Chin, Gundersen reflected on Chin’s “outsiderness,” as an out-of-stater who has espoused policies that deviate from normative political expectations. “Voting for him,” said Gundersen, “then entails some degree of risk. But because Bouchard represents the status quo, I don’t see there being anything to lose by voting for Ben Chin…But I think he won’t fail. I think it’s a risk worth taking.”

 

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