LEWISTON — To the surprise of few, Ben Chin led the pack in Tuesday’s five-way race to pick a new mayor in Lewiston.
The real drama for political insiders was whether Shane Bouchard or Mark Cayer, both City Council veterans, would come in second, earning the opportunity take part in a two-person runoff against Chin on Dec. 12.
It turned out that Bouchard carried the day, grabbing 29 percent of the vote to Cayer’s 24 percent. Chin snagged 42 percent.
“You got a runoff, buddy. Congratulations,” Auburn Republican Jason Levesque told Bouchard at an election night gathering.
Eyeing the monthlong campaign to come, Levesque smiled. “It never ends,” he added.
Chin said that pulling in more than 40 percent is a huge win that he credits to the grass-roots campaign he ran focusing on key issues such as the opioid epidemic, slumlords and integrating immigrants into the community.
He said he expects his foes to use “every nasty attack they can possibly think of” before the runoff election, but he’s going to stick to the issues rather than get caught up in “ridiculous nonsense” from people who have no solutions to the problems facing Lewiston.
In some ways, it’s 2015 all over again for Chin. The last mayoral election, he won a five-person race as well, with 44 percent of the tally. But because he fell short of the 50 percent mark, he was forced into a runoff with second-place Robert Macdonald, who trailed him with 37 percent of the total. Chin went on to lose the runoff to Macdonald, 53 percent of the vote to 47.
But Chin said there’s a key difference this year: Last time the supporters of the third-place finisher mostly went to Macdonald. This time, he said, Cayer’s voters are unlikely to follow suit because “they are rational people who don’t like divisive politics.”
Cayer said it’s too soon for him to think about endorsing anyone.
Cayer said he’s disappointed at the results. He said he thinks the lopsided defeat of the merger contributed to his loss.
“It’s too bad it became a one-issue campaign,” Cayer said. As the candidate most supportive of the consolidation referendum, he said, he no doubt took a hit given however unpopular it proved.
Bouchard said it helped him that he had “the right stance on the merger” from the beginning.
But he credited his success in reaching the runoff to knocking “on every door I possibly could.”
Looking ahead to what promises to be a tough contest against Chin, the political engagement director for the Maine People’s Alliance, Bouchard said the trick for him will be to “keep pounding the message” to the people and hope he prevails.
Bouchard said that he anticipates the race will get “a little chippy” as it heads toward the runoff date. But so far, he said, the two have stayed focused on the issues.
“Ben was an awesome opponent,” he said, willing to make his case to the voters on policy. Chin said that he and Bouchard have had “really good, open lines of communication” that he hopes will remain that way.
Ron Potvin, a former Auburn city councilor, came in fourth with 4 percent of the vote.
He said Chin appeals to a more liberal approach while Bouchard is “the more conservative, taxpayers-oriented” candidate.
He said he enjoyed the campaign and thinks it has been a good one for Lewiston.
Potvin said it didn’t focus on the normal municipal issues such as roads, schools and taxes. Instead, he said, candidates talked mostly about securing a better image for the city.
All five of the mayoral contenders realized there’s “a lot of work to be done” to reach out to the region, secure better transportation options and building up the image of the city.
Charles Soule, who has run for mayor a number of times without success, got 1.5 percent of the overall vote.
Ben Chin addresses his supporters in a post-election party at Guthries in Lewiston on Tuesday night. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)
Shane Bouchard talks during a campaign party at Gipper’s in Auburn on Tuesday evening. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)
Shane Bouchard takes a call from his campaign as they report preliminary results of the Lewiston mayoral race. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)
Stephanie Gelinas, right, takes a photo of Michael Dostie, left, Sandy Marquis, center, and Tim Rucker, right, at Pedro O’Hara’s in Lewiston Tuesday night as they wait for returns and the arrival of Lewiston mayoral candidate Mark Cayer. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)