LEWISTON — After winning the mayor's chair Tuesday night, Bob Macdonald promised a surprise Thursday for the people behind opponent Mark Paradis' campaign.
Macdonald claimed 2,543 votes in Tuesday's special runoff election, 70 votes better than those cast for Paradis, who had 2,473 votes, according to unofficial results. Paradis died Friday of pneumonia, but his name remained on the ballot.
After the ballots were counted Tuesday night, Macdonald said he would have a surprise for the people who led Paradis' campaign.
"Mr. Paradis was a very honorable person, a nice man," Macdonald said. "But some of the people behind his campaign were very sleazy. And Thursday, they'll find out what's going to happen."
Macdonald accused Paradis' backers of starting a rumor that Macdonald's wife had Alzheimer's disease.
"They said I wouldn't be able to fulfill my duties as mayor because I'd have to care for her," Macdonald said. "But my wife is fine. She doesn't have Alzheimer's."
Michael Dumas, campaign director for Paradis, denied that his group had started rumors about Macdonald.
Tuesday's vote put an end to a long and memorable mayoral campaign. The two candidates were among a group of five seeking the mayor's chair in the November ballot. Paradis and Macdonald claimed the most votes of the five candidates; Paradis got 32 percent and Macdonald got 31 percent.
The City Charter requires the mayor to get a majority of the vote to win election — at least 50 percent, plus one vote. Since neither did, the runoff election was scheduled.
Paradis announced Wednesday that he had been diagnosed with cancer and had begun radiation treatment, but he vowed to continue his campaign.
Paradis died two days later. His friends, family and supporters encouraged voters to select him, anyway. Rather than elect a mayor Tuesday, voters would be calling for a new mayoral election.
Macdonald said that was foolish.
"People around the state would be looking at us and laughing, once again," Macdonald said. "Voting for a dead man. That's what they're going to be saying about Lewiston, and it's just ridiculous."
City Clerk Kathy Montejo said Tuesday's vote would put an end to that controversy. Macdonald will be sworn in Jan. 3 with the city councilors and School Committee members elected in November.
But Macdonald said he was not finished.
"If you were taken through the coals, called a racist and called all these names, how would you feel?" Macdonald said. "There was no need for this. I am sorry that Mr. Paradis died. If he had won, we would have just said this is the way the city wants to go. It was going to be a referendum for the people, and I wish it would have been that way. But when he died, the people who ran his campaign came after me."
Macdonald said he wants to bring the city together, but residents have to stop comparing recent immigrants to the Canadian immigrants of 100 years ago.
"When you start comparing these people to people's ancestors, what do you think is going to happen?" Macdonald said. "It causes a lot of stress, and it causes Lewiston residents to hate these people."
Macdonald said he understands that immigrants came to Lewiston looking for a new life.
"We need to let them get established, and help them," Macdonald said. "But instead of comparing them to someone's ancestors, we have to stop that. That's just aggravating."