LEWISTON — Mayor-elect Bob Macdonald on Wednesday backed off his election night comments, saying a surprise set for Thursday afternoon is now designed to smooth any feathers he might have ruffled.
"As far as I'm concerned, the election is over," Macdonald said. "What happened happened and it's ancient history, so I'm not going to dwell on it. I just want to go forward."
Macdonald said Tuesday night that he had a surprise — to be announced Thursday — for members of opponent Mark Paradis' campaign staff and volunteers. Macdonald said he didn't blame Paradis, who died Friday before the special runoff election, but Paradis' supporters had spread rumors about Macdonald's family, he said.
Michael Dumas, campaign manager for Paradis, said he did not know where any such rumors originated.
"I was very upset to hear the claim that someone had started a rumor about his wife's health, and if I would have heard anything like that," Dumas said. "The person who started any rumor would have been removed from the campaign."
Macdonald said Wednesday he wanted to back off the comments he made Tuesday night. He didn't disavow them or say they were wrong, but he said he wanted to change his tone.
"If I said it, I don't feel bad, but I just betrayed myself in a way," Macdonald said. "What I'm going to do now is just stay focused."
Macdonald said he hoped to unveil his surprise idea at 2 p.m. at Lewiston City Hall. He hoped it would be seen as a positive thing, aimed at moving the city in a better direction.
"It'll be a conciliatory thing," Macdonald said. "I want to work with everybody here. Fighting amongst ourselves does not make anything. I'm going to propose something tomorrow, a conciliatory thing, and let people know just where I stand, so they have a better understanding of me."
Paradis and Macdonald claimed the most votes of five candidates at the Nov. 8 municipal election, but neither man collected more than 32 percent of the total vote. 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 on Dec. 7 that he had been diagnosed with cancer and had started radiation treatment but vowed to continue his campaign. Paradis died two days later, on Friday morning. His friends, family and supporters encouraged voters to select him, anyway. A Paradis win would have made the seat vacant and the city would have had to schedule a new mayoral election.
Macdonald narrowly won the runoff, claiming 2,543 votes to Paradis' 2,473. Afterward, Macdonald told reporters that Paradis volunteers had started a rumor that Macdonald's wife was sick. Macdonald said that made him angry.
Now, Macdonald said, he wants to change the tone of local politics.
He said he'd had a busy Wednesday, talking with incoming city councilors. He also talked with Ronella Paradis, the widow of his opponent.
It's important to unite the city now, Macdonald said.
"This is not a 'me' situation; it's a 'we' situation," Macdonald said. "I have some suggestions about what we can do, but now I need to get the city behind me. We are going to change the city. We'll be looking to make some changes, but I don't want to start climbing that hill and look around and see no one behind me."
Dumas, Paradis' campaign manager, wished Macdonald good luck.
"This campaign was about different philosophies for dealing with the issues," Dumas said. "There was a difference of opinion between the two men. But, in the end, people chose him and his view. Now it's time for him to lead."