Ben Chin responds to leaked emails

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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. 

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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.” 

Ben Chin 

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  • I wasn’t going to weigh in on this as an outgoing city councilor, but I’m going to because I’m steamed. I’ve lived in this town for 50 years. My family has been here 100. I would dare say I know many more people than Mr. Chin. There may be individual racists. But this is NOT a racist city. There are NO racist neighborhoods, or neighborhoods with “concentrations” of racists. I heard many opinions about Mr. Chin in 2015 and this year. Many people talk to me, as I know many people. I currently represent arguably the most conservative ward in Lewiston. I have heard disagreements with Chin’s policy ideas. Never once have I heard a racial slur uttered about him. To expect me to believe that racist things were said his face, especially in the hard-working blue-collar neighborhoods referenced in his e-mails, is simply not believable to me. I work in the prison system. Rarely, in 30 years, have I seen face-to-face incidents of racism from the criminal element. But I should believe that decent hard-working people in middle class neighborhoods did it to Mr. Chin? These e-mails are what they are and say what they say. To dismiss them as a distraction from real issues is a politician’s dodge. The timing and the media source are irrelevant. The e-mails mention Chin supporters and those leaning as Chin supporters. I don’t see any mention of “nice conservative people,” even though they disagree and aren’t voting for him. I see “Oh, and racists, too.” Leftist/progressives have labeled their political detractors “racist” for darn near anything for far too long. Immigration reform: racist. Oppose Affordabel Care Act: racist. Support Republican tax cuts: racist. Oppose unsustainable refugee/asylum programs: racist. Enough. Mr. Chin, your view of Lewiston residents who disagree with you is not a distraction from “real issues.” It IS a “real issue.” If this is how you view Lewiston, you shouldn’t be mayor.

  • mdyer

    Don’t get yer panties in a knot there Tim. If you haven’t heard a lot of racist talk in your 50 years in Lewiston you’ve been living under a rock. It’s not a “racist town”,but there’s a lot of racist sentiment, especially about immigrants. Ignoring the problem or feigning outrage when someone points it out doesn’t help one bit.

  • KF_Maine

    Thanks Tim Lajoie for providing a balance to the story that Sun Journal either didn’t want or didn’t think to do. They basically provided Mr Chin with an opportunity to explain and/or perhaps apologize. I know it was an internal email, but he should have said he was sorry for calling potential voters “racists” and been done with it. I’d have felt better about it if that was the response, instead of him basically saying, yeah some people do say racist things to be. That, unfortunately, is how you play the “race card”.

  • A few things to consider:

    1. The timing of this “leak.”

    2. The fact that racism exists. It exists here in Lewiston. To say so warrants no apology, especially since Ben Chin wasn’t singling out any voter by name, and mentioned it privately in an email to his team.

    3. Nowhere in the email does Ben say HE was the target of racism, merely that he encountered racists (those who hold racist views) while knocking on doors and having conversations with people in Ward 6. Again, to state so in a private email is not playing “the race card” on any count.

    4. The email does not paint Ward 6 with a broad stroke, nor does it accuse Ward 6 in general of Racism. It lists his encounters, the same way a naturalist might write in his journal: “Went into the woods today and saw three deer, two bears, one moose, hundreds of birds, three dozen squirrels — and oh yeah, a bunch of mice.”

    When you knock on doors for 100 nights over the course of an election and meet literally thousands upon thousands of people, you’re bound to encounter “a bunch of racists,” the same way you’re bound to encounter a bunch of teachers, lawyers, fans of Stranger Things, people who play bingo, subscribers to Sports Illustrated,…

    Talk about a non-story if ever there was one.

    • More sage advice from a political activist who isn’t from Lewiston? Multiple e-mails, Mr. Robley. NOT a non-story. He’s fixated on this point. People who disagree with him are racist. And I’ll stand by MY statement…that is not what this city is. If that is his perspective, he IS painting with a broad brush…a brush that says, “If you don’t agree with my utopian socialist ideas, you’re a racist.”

      • Lauren Breau

        Quick fact check: Mr. Robley is indeed “from Lewiston” as Lewiston is the city he identifies as home. For the past 6 years he’s been a homeowner, an active local musician, a vote caster, and is currently raising a family here…in Lewiston (just to be clear.) I personally don’t want to engage in this conversation about Lewiston’s race problem (as I’ve found more helpful platforms for that kind of activism), but just wanted to make sure this odd accusation/exclusion doesn’t go unchecked. Merci beaucoup!
        ~Lauren Breau, Lewiston native, current Lewiston resident, political activist, wife of Chris Robley

        • I stand corrected and will retract that. My apologies. His social media footprint says Portland. You may consider that phrase deleted from my comments. The rest of my comment about Mr. Chin’s e-mails stands, however.

          • Les Gibson

            Tim Lajoie, isn’t it amazing the depths leftists will sink to in order to be apologists for Chin and make pitiful attempts at giving him cover.

    • Les Gibson

      A ‘non-story’….. ridiculous.
      But thank you so much for revealing yourself as an apologist for Ben Chin and his despicable comments. Speaks volumes.
      You wouldn’t happen to be another one of Chins minions and a member of the disgraced Maine Peoples Alliance would you?

    • KF_Maine

      Still a “non story” to you? According to Chin he’s encountering racists in every neighborhood he visits….well, except for Tall Pines. He’s just calling people who disagree with his policies/proposals “racists”. Its sad.

  • Les Gibson

    Imagine my surprise that after Chin and his derogatory comments about Lewiston residents being a bunch of racists, he laughs it off as ‘nonsense’ and ‘dirty tricks’.

    Ben Chin, this is not nonsense, or dirty tricks. This is someone associated with you that actually has morals and a conscience exposing you for who, and what you are.

    You also said you seek a ‘revolution’ in Lewiston. Sorry, but there will be no Marx/Lenin style revolution here.

    You called Lewiston residents racists. You said it, you own it.
    Period!

    You have allowed, with your full knowledge, a convicted pedophile to be part of your campaign staff. You have allowed this child molester to attend events with small children present. You have allowed him to mingle with these children. You have refused to comment on this situation. Instead you have your minions on Heidi Sawyer’s Lewiston Rocks FB page attack anyone who dares question this situation you have allowed. Clearly you place little value on the safety of our children.

    You have marched with facist Antifa thugs and labeled our law enforcement officers as racist pigs.

    You have invaded businesses with leftist ‘Occupy’ thugs and attempted to shut them down.

    You have stated your vision is to transform Lewiston into a low income housing center for welfare recipients and immigrants…along with the rampant crime and abuses that come with that.

    It boggles the mind that anyone would want you and your horrible policies in charge of Lewiston.

    On December 12, the residents of Lewiston will respond to you with a very loud, and very clear voice.