LEWISTON — Two different philosophies of mayoral leadership were on display Monday night at the Lewiston Public Library.
For candidate Bob Macdonald, the Dec. 13 mayoral runoff vote is a chance for residents to move the city in a different direction.
"This election is a referendum — are things going to stay the same or are they going to change?" Macdonald told the packed room. "You have a choice here. If you want them to stay the same, that's what's going to happen."
For Candidate Mark Paradis, it's a question of voting with hope in mind for the city's future — and not fear.
"I do not stand for pitting one American against another or the rich against the poor," Paradis said. "Rather I stand for hope of lifting all Americans and providing all the same opportunities that brought us, our grandfathers to these shores. I am pledging to unite us, to work with the City Council and make us a great city and a better home for all of us."
More than 130 people attended the debate, co-sponsored by the Sun Journal and the Lewiston Public Library.
Another 300 watched a live video feed of the debate on the Internet and participated in a live online chat on sunjournal.com
Recorded video of the debate should be on Sun Journal's Web site Tuesday afternoon. A video of the debate will also air on Great Falls TV after Friday.
City voters will go to the polls again Dec. 13 to elect a new mayor.
City rules require a run-off, since neither candidate Mark Paradis or Robert Macdonald picked up enough votes in the Nov. 8 municipal election.
Lewiston rules require that a mayor get at least 50 percent of the votes cast, plus one vote. Paradis and Macdonald were the top two vote-getters in a field of five candidates, with Paradis claiming 32 percent of the total votes cast and Macdonald picking up 31 percent.
The debate made clear the differences between the two men.
Macdonald, 64, a former Lewiston Police Officer and Lewiston Middle School aid, said he was a conservative man with a mission to reform downtown subsidized housing, buff up the city's image around the state and use the mayor's job as a bully pulpit to get city councilors moving.
"I came in second in a five-man race, which shocked the establishment," Macdonald said in his opening statement. "That just goes to show you how out of touch they are with the community that they serve. This has made me a threat to the business-as-usual crowd and I have been accused of demagoguery, shooting from the hip and being harsh."
Paradis, a service manager at Longchamps and Sons in Lisbon, said he was a more levelheaded and experienced choice who wants to encourage economic development and education and who will work with the City Council, leading them the way a conductor leads and orchestra.
"Our country has had enough politicians telling us things to get elected, and then not keeping their word — or worse, finding themselves helpless to fulfill their promises," Paradis said in his opening statement. "I for one will never lie or play your fears to be elected. I would rather not win than have to not tell the truth."
The two men agreed on several issues. When asked if they'd support a citywide lodging and restaurant tax, both men said it would be a bad idea. Both said they'd need to look carefully at the budget before saying if they would cut taxes or cut services. And both were enthusiastic supporters for redeveloping the city's riverfront and turning it into a regional draw.
But they disagreed on several key issues. Paradis said he'd be willing to work to share services with the city of Auburn. Macdonald said that was a waste of time.
"We have our problems here, and they have their problems," Macdonald said. "At such a time when we solve those problems, then we can look at cooperating. But we don't have the time now to worry about what's going on in Auburn."
They also disagreed on using tax incentives to lure developers to the city. Macdonald said it didn't make sense to pay people to develop in Lewiston. Paradis said the tools have been used well in the past.
"Let's go back to Exit 80 and the Wal-Mart Distribution Center," Paradis said. "We took that TIF and we made it happen and with it we developed infrastructure there. And because of the infrastructure and the economic development, we got the jobs going on there now."
Macdonald fought against claims that he was a anti-immigrant, saying he had nothing but respect for Somali women who've come to Lewiston to work.
"They want to learn because they weren't given the opportunity before," Macdonald said. "The others, they didn't want to learn but those Somali girls, they want to learn."
Lewiston's Multi-Purpose Center at 145 Birch St. will be the only polling place for the entire city in the special run-off election. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Absentee ballots for the run-off election must be requested from the City Clerk's Office by Dec. 8 and must be returned by the Dec. 13 election day.
The ballots will be counted by hand Dec. 13 and results should be available that night.