LEWISTON – There’ll be plenty to pick from at next month’s mayoral ballot.
Unlike the last three mayoral elections that pitted a single favorite against less well-known challengers, there are four candidates vying to finish out Lionel Guay’s term as mayor of Lewiston. They are Ward 7 City Councilor Normand Rousseau, former Police Chief Laurent Gilbert, School Committee member Leah Poulin and Charles Soule.
Both Rousseau and Gilbert have a history in public office. Rousseau was elected to the council in 2001 and serves as the chair of the Colisee’s board of directors. Gilbert is a former Lewiston police chief and president of the Franco-American Heritage board of directors.
But they insist they have fundamental differences. Gilbert would like to see the Colisee privatized. He has nothing against the ice arena – he’s a Lewiston Maineiacs’ season ticket holder – but thinks private owners could do more.
“It can do everything it does now, but without relying on taxes for support,” he said.
The Colisee needs more time to develop before it’s attractive to private buyers, according to Rousseau. He’s OK with that.
“If it was just about dollars and cents, where would this city be?” he said. “We provide some wonderful amenities that wouldn’t be there without public support. The Colisee is one of them, and it’s a real asset to us. It wouldn’t be where it is now without our support.”
For Rousseau, the city’s rain fee was property tax relief. Gilbert said it needed more public discussion before being enacted.
Rousseau said he brings more experience to the job and empathy with Lewiston’s working class.
“I’m a small businessman, and I know what it takes to make it in Lewiston,” he said. “I’ve been there, and I know the struggles they face and how we can change that.”
For Gilbert, it’s about leadership.
“I think it’s been a while (since) we’ve had somebody who could stand up to the city administrator,” Gilbert said. “But that has to happen. The elected officials, they have the link to the people and they need to drive what happens. That takes leadership.”
School Committee member Leah Poulin said she’s running as an alternative to the two City Hall insiders. She was among the original 10 to kick-start a citizens’ petition aimed at killing Lewiston’s storm-utility fee.
“I had heard enough people complain about the rain fee, that I thought it deserved a public vote,” she said. “A petition is the only way to go about doing that, so that’s what we tried.”
She doesn’t necessarily disagree with the things the current council has done, but said she is skeptical.
“I don’t see a lot of good in what the city is doing, and the only way to change that is to step up to the plate and try,” she said. Top on her list of complaints is the way she thinks councilors react to their constituents.
“They don’t always seem to be listening,” she said. “They act like ‘I’ve been elected, now let me do my work.’ “
She’s afraid current leaders are too worried about today’s crisis, and not planning for years down the road. She cites the rain fee as an example: It might help to balance the budget now, but there is nothing to stop future City Councils from doubling or tripling the fee.
“I’ve talked to councilors about it, and they just told me not to worry about it,” she said.
Soule goes for six
Six-time mayoral candidate Charles Soule rounds out the ballot. His campaign themes in the past have included building a replica of the Eiffel Tower to bring tourism to Lewiston, having the city assume censorship control of cable television, and firing the city administrator and having the mayor assume his duties.
His best showing was in 2005, when he picked up 1,234 votes. That wasn’t enough to unseat Guay, who received 7,288 votes, or 76 percent of the total vote.