For backing Mendros, state GOP boss should quit, candidate says

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LEWISTON — A Republican from Lewiston who is running for the Maine House of Representatives is calling for his party’s state chairwoman to resign over her role in recruiting former Androscoggin County GOP leader Stavros Mendros as a legislative candidate in York County.

Former state lawmaker Stavros Mendros speaks in 2012 at the Maine Republican Convention at the Augusta Civic Center. (AP file photo)

Mike Lachance, a candidate in the 61st District, said Demi Kouzounas should “immediately step down” for encouraging Mendros to challenge a state senator in Saco.

“Promoting the election of and furthering the political career of such characters as Mr. Mendros is not only self-destructive for the party and an insult to Mainers, but is a slap in the face to every hardworking Mainer who believes in conservatism, good government and ethics,” Lachance said in a prepared statement.

Neither Kouzounas nor the state Republican Party responded to requests for comments Sunday and Monday. But Mendros fired back at Lachance.

Republican Mike Lachance, candidate for the District 61 state House seat in Lewiston. He is one of three challengers aiming to unseat Democrat Heidi Brooks. (Photo provided)

“No chance Lachance is another in a long line of wannabe politicians suffering from Stavros envy,” he said.

Mendros compared LaChance to “a child in need of a diaper change trying to get attention.”

The GOP last week tapped Lachance, a former city councilor, to fill a vacant candidate slot after Jason Lavoie dropped out as the party’s standard bearer and joined the Democrats instead.

The district is represented by Democrat Heidi Brooks, who is seeking a third term. Also in the running are independent Luke Jensen and Green Independent Kimberly Pfusch.

“Luke Jensen will undoubtedly have more votes than ‘No Chance’ this November because he’s talking about the issues that matter to Lewiston,” Mendros said.

Mendros was among some Republican leaders who tried unsuccessfully to recruit a Somali candidate to take Lavoie’s place on the ballot. The day before the GOP caucus to make the pick, he said that skeptics within the party “circled their wagons and pulled out their white sheets” to find an alternative candidate.

As it turned out, Lachance was already eyeing a run, several officials said, and party leaders had no trouble agreeing he had the best shot to win as a former city council member from the area.

Lachance said Mendros, a former legislator from Lewiston, “has remained an embarrassment to Maine Republicans with seemingly never-ending incidents” for years.

Mendros lives in Hollis and agreed recently to run as the Republican challenger to state Sen. Justin Chenette, D-Saco. Chenette’s website labeled Mendros as “the most unethical man in Maine politics.”

Lachance pointed to Mendros’ involvement in “two separate investigations over fraudulent signature gathering, being voted out and banned from any future leadership role in the Androscoggin County GOP” in 2015 and playing a role in the botched gathering of signatures for Max Linn’s failed U.S. Senate race this spring.

“Nearly everything Mendros has touched has turned into an embarrassment.,” Lachance said. “The damage Mr. Mendros has done to local politics in general is inexcusable.”

Demi Kouzounas, a dentist from Saco who serves as chairwoman of the Maine Republican Party. She helped convince Stavros Mendros to move to York County and challenge a Democratic state senator in this year’s election. (Photo provided)

That the state party leader helped recruit him to run for office in the 31st Senate District “is perhaps the most shameful thing a state GOP Chairman has done in recent memory,” Lachance said.

Phil Bartlett, the state Democratic Party chairman, issued his own statement about Mendros’ entry into the race last week.

“The contrast between these two candidates right out of the gate couldn’t be clearer,” Bartlett said.

He said Chenette is “one of the most upstanding members of the Maine Senate while his new opponent has consistently had to defend himself against charges of ethical wrongdoing.”

“The Maine Republican Party should be condemning Mendros, not recruiting and endorsing him for public office,” Bartlett said.

Mendros said the claims made about him are excessive.

“I’ve never been a snob or looked down my nose at anyone,” he said. “I treat everyone with respect because I know people make mistakes and nobody’s perfect and I’ve never claimed to be.”

“That’s why I’m the only Republican to win an entirely Lewiston legislative district since 1902 — and I did it twice,” Mendros said. “And this November I still will be.”

But Lachance said that with leaders such as Mendros and Kouzounas, the Republicans “can only fail.”

Citing former Lewiston Mayor Bob Macdonald’s catchphrase, Lachance said to Kouzounas: “Enough is enough. It’s time to step down.”

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Facebook post by state House contender Mike Lachance, who is calling for the state Republican Party leader to quit for supporting Stavros Mendros as a candidate in York County. Lachance is  the GOP contender in the 61st District in Lewiston.

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