Lewiston mayoral candidate Mark Paradis understood that citizens are angry about a lot of things, and he was determined to do his part to lead the city away from that anger and toward solutions.
His public announcement Wednesday that he had been diagnosed with cancer seemed to cement that determination as he vowed, if elected, to fulfill his campaign promises to support fair taxes and comprehensive city services.
Paradis’ death Friday afternoon did not erase his ideals, but it does present a challenge to voters just days before Tuesday’s runoff election.
After the November votes were counted, Paradis found himself in a runoff election with Bob Macdonald, each man having earned just over 30 percent of the votes but not the 50 percent required by City Charter for either to claim the mayor’s seat.
In the month since the mayoral field dropped from five candidates to the remaining two, the distinct philosophical differences between Paradis and Macdonald crystallized, giving voters a clear choice in choosing the next mayor.
More than 1,000 voters are so certain about their choice that they have already voted by absentee ballot. Other Lewiston voters will go to the Multi-Purpose Center on Tuesday to cast their ballots, as the city moves forward with the election as planned.
In mourning Paradis’ passing at a City Hall news conference Friday, his friends and political supporters described him as a “good guy.”
A guy who loved his family and loved his community. According to City Councilor Renee Bernier, Paradis had a “passion for life, for the city of Lewiston.”
We agree. Paradis’ devotion to Lewiston was true.
But, the very same can be said for his opponent.
Macdonald is also a beloved family man. He loves the city and has a deep passion to be part of the city’s success.
Each man devoted himself to public service: Paradis in his elected posts on the Planning Board, Finance Committee and City Council, and Macdonald as a beat cop and Lewiston police detective.
Each man earned nearly the same percent of votes in November, and each enjoyed the presence of devoted supporters in the weeks since.
But, the reality is that in the aftermath of Paradis’ death, Tuesday’s election will be a referendum on Bob Macdonald. It’s not the race he entered or the campaign he wanted, but that is the reality for Macdonald and for the citizens of Lewiston.
And it’s no way to select a mayor to lead this city over the next two years.
While Macdonald and Paradis may have shared many of the same personal attributes and good humor, their political views were radically opposed, with Paradis supporting tax increment finance districts and the population’s growing diversity and Macdonald opposed to both based on his deep-seated resistance to corporate hand-outs and the population’s growing dependence on social services.
Whatever you may think of either man, their political differences offered voters a real choice, but that choice disappeared with Paradis’ death.
The city of Lewiston deserves a choice in selecting its next mayor and the only way to do that would be for a majority to support Paradis for mayor, knowing the city would have to declare a vacancy in that office should he win, forcing the race for the mayor’s seat to begin anew.
A vote for Paradis should not be considered a vote against Macdonald so much as it would be a vote to acknowledge the unusual circumstances of this now lop-sided runoff election, giving the city a chance to start over.
The mayoral campaign brought tremendous focus on the needs of the people who live in Lewiston, and in order to address those needs the people need a real choice for mayor. The only way to do that is to begin again.
We urge a vote for Paradis to re-set the election clock.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.