LEWISTON — Lewiston mayoral candidate Ben Chin responded Monday to internal campaign emails that were leaked to a conservative website in which Chin describes, in one communication, encountering a “bunch of racists” while campaigning this year.
One of the emails, written in June, was published by the website The Maine Examiner over the weekend and subsequently shared on the community Facebook page Lewiston Rocks, where it was met with a mix of criticism and suspicion.
The Maine Examiner states that Chin’s emails were sent from “a Chin campaign insider concerned about the direction of the campaign.”
The online articles carry no byline and no attribution, and the only information about the group describes it as “a small group of Mainers who simply publish Maine news, trends and interesting pieces about you, the people of Maine.” Much of the content has a hard conservative lean.
The June 15 email sent from Chin to his campaign volunteers describes a night of campaigning in Ward 6, where Chin lists his encounters with residents off Grove Street, describing “very intense differences between the working class and lower income sides.” At the very end of the message, he wrote he encountered a “bunch of racists too…”
The Maine Examiner published a second internal Chin campaign email Monday, written Aug. 10 in which Chin describes a night of campaigning in a section of Ward 7 where he found “high partisan folks (who) are just less undecided,” having a “higher concentration of racists.”
After the June email gained steam on social media, Chin responded directly on Lewiston Rocks, stating, “Yes, some people said some racist things to me that night and I mentioned it in an email to volunteers. It’s something I’ve gotten used to, as you might imagine, but not something I speak about often, publicly. I think we’d all rather have this campaign be about the things that bring us together and a positive future for our city.”
During the 2015 mayoral campaign, signs appeared on downtown buildings that said “Don’t vote for Ho Chi Chin,” also picturing hammers and sickles and a cartoon caricature of Ho Chi Minh. Following enormous public criticism, the signs were quickly taken down.
Chin told the Sun Journal on Monday that there has been “very little monkey-business” during this year’s campaign until now. He questioned the intentions and source of the website, which posted the email barely a week before the runoff election on Dec. 12.
“I think it’s a real problem in our democracy when some group can just put out headlines that completely mislead people, and then they get put up on social media, and we end up talking about nonsense,” Chin said.
He said he’s felt good about his campaign and his supporters having “positive and issues-oriented messages out there.”