Outburst over casino's failure wasn't justified

It was a long night after an exhausting campaign that ended with a big thud. So some frustration can be excused.

Still, Mayor Larry Gilbert's tirade Tuesday night against other regions of Maine, the media and Gov. Paul LePage was misplaced and unproductive.

Gilbert and the group behind the failed attempt to bring a casino to Lewiston would do better to look inward, rather than blaming others for the casino question's failure.

Question 3, which would have allowed construction of a casino in Bates Mill No. 5 in downtown Lewiston, faced long odds from the start.

The campaign for a casino in Oxford was well under way when the Lewiston project was announced in 2010. If that casino issue passed, we wrote at the time, voters were unlikely to turn around and allow another casino a year later and only 17 miles away.

And that, we believe, was the primary reason for the failure by large margins of both gaming questions on Tuesday's ballot. With the addition of the Biddeford/Calais plan on the ballot, it was too much, too soon for most voters.

But the long odds against the Lewiston casino became even longer as the group controlling the local campaign made mistake after mistake.

The problems began when local political operative Stavros Mendros emerged as the public face of the project.

Mendros has, on several occasions over the years, skirted campaign laws as a candidate and while running his signature-gathering business.

In one instance in 2007, he pleaded guilty to notarizing phony signature documents promoting a racino in Washington County. He lost his notary license.

Based on his checkered history, many voters concluded Mendros was simply looking for a personal windfall in the casino ballot question.

Which raises the final issues of money and strategic thinking. The Lewiston campaign simply did not have enough of either to mount a competitive campaign.

The backers of the successful Oxford casino had a handful of respected business people bankrolling their campaign. They convinced voters they had enough of their own money in the venture to control its development.

The investors in the Lewiston casino were well-meaning, but it was clear from the start that actual development would have been financed by outside gambling interests.

Finally, contrary to what Mayor Gilbert said Tuesday night, Gov. Paul LePage had little or nothing to do with the failure of the Lewiston casino question.

The governor pledged to stay out of the casino campaigns, and he did. Last week, however, in response to a question, he said, "I don't see how the state of Maine can afford five casinos."

That comment was taken out of context by anti-gambling advocates and used in robo-calls around the state.

It is valid to question how much gaming the state can support, and many of us do. But we also question how much of an impact one off-the-cuff comment by the governor had on this campaign.

LePage also supported defeat of Question 1, which restored same-day voter registration in Maine, and the issue passed overwhelmingly.

Last week, we supported the local casino issue as a possible economic development project for downtown Lewiston.

It was a long shot and it failed. Now it's time to move on.

rrhoades@sunjournal.com

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.

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Comments

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The truth is, from the

The truth is, from the developers to the Mayor, the proponents of the Lewiston Casino did a lousy job of presenting their case to the public and, the timing couldn't have been worse.

i am surpised the mayor didnt

i am surpised the mayor didnt blame george bush! lets see if the one in oxford works first.

 's picture

HInt for Job Growth

PEr sec?
Carbonite?
ACS?

lewiston is growning some lowend tech jobs? JObs that bring outside money into the area. Not just swirl around what already here.

 's picture

with the rants Lewiston's

with the rants Lewiston's mayor did toward the governor, I hope it doesn't affect Lewiston's future. Sad.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

You don't thing Gov. LePage

You don't thing Gov. LePage is gonna let that slam slide, do you? Gilbert (and Lewiston) will pay.

 's picture

casino rejected

I feel the mayor is simply attacking the governor due to his own shortcomings in attracting business to the Lewiston area. His frustration should have been directed toward the anti-business environment established over a thirty year period by his own party, the Democrats in Augusta. Hopefully, Gilbert didn't place all his fish in the casino barrel, and should now get to work attracting other sources of employers creating jobs. I did vote yes on all casino questions.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Good post, Steve. You nailed

Good post, Steve. You nailed it right on.

GARY SAVARD's picture

Very good editorial. I found

Very good editorial. I found the Mayor's rants embarassing, actually.

David  Cote's picture

Nothing to add

Good piece, Rex. Very good, in fact.

PAUL MATTSON's picture

YOU HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD!

YOU HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD!

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