LEWISTON — Ron Potvin officially endorsed Ben Chin for mayor Wednesday, in a move that both said may be a surprise given their opposite positions on the political spectrum.
Potvin, who identifies as a conservative, sat with Chin on Wednesday and told a Facebook Live audience that he believes in Chin’s message and his plans to make the opioid crisis a top priority.
“I see what you want to do, and I think you have the strongest message to accomplish it in this city,” Potvin said to Chin. “Therefore, I’m here today to endorse you.”
On Nov. 7, Potvin placed fourth among five candidates, receiving 375 votes. His support for Chin could strike up more conversations among conservative voters.
Potvin said his endorsement might be controversial, given that he identifies as a conservative. During the first mayoral debate in October, Potvin referred to Chin as the “socialist” candidate.
“People are going to ask why a conservative is endorsing someone from the Maine People’s Alliance,” Potvin said, referring to the organization where Chin serves as political director. “The reason is very simple: I have faith that you’re going to be able to accomplish things in this city that need to happen now.”
Potvin said his campaign centered on the need for some major changes in Lewiston, especially in the downtown. He said Chin is “right on” when he says “as long as the old vision continues to be in charge, nothing will change in this city.”
Potvin and Shane Bouchard, Chin’s runoff opponent in the Dec. 12 election, were both leaders of the Coalition Opposed to Lewiston-Auburn Consolidation, the anti-merger group.
Potvin moved to Lewiston from Auburn four years ago, where he served first on the City Council and most recently on the School Committee. He built a reputation in Auburn as a strong fiscal conservative, often pushing hard against budget increases.
Much of Potvin’s endorsement is based on Chin making the opioid crisis a priority. During Monday’s debate, Chin said Lewiston needs to address the crisis from a public health perspective, and that simply “locking people up” is no longer working.
Potvin, who works for the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Department, said he’s been “alarmed” at the growing number of overdose deaths, and is hopeful about Chin’s approach.
During his campaign, Potvin proposed plans for a $5 million rehabilitation facility in Lewiston. He believes the strain on social services and the poverty rate in Lewiston can be traced back to people struggling with addiction.
“It’s not about putting people in jail — we’ve been doing that,” he said. But, he said, right now Lewiston does not have the resources to address the crisis.
Chin said he was encouraged by Potvin’s “big, bold ideas” for addressing the crisis, particularly given Potvin’s law enforcement background.
Third-place finisher Mark Cayer told the Sun Journal recently that he would not be endorsing either runoff candidate.
Cayer received 2,399 votes, or 25 percent of the vote, on Nov. 7, which makes his supporters the biggest draw for both runoff candidates. Cayer said both campaigns had since reached out to him.
“I offered what I believed were reasonable and sustainable solutions based on my years of service on the council, while also being clear that I would take party politics and special interest out of the mayor’s office in order to represent the taxpayer and community members as a whole,” he said. “The number of votes I did receive shows many community members want the same thing. It will be up to the two remaining candidates to earn those votes.”
Bouchard said Thursday that he’s not actively seeking endorsements. However, he said Mayor Bob Macdonald is supporting him, though Macdonald supported Cayer in the initial election.
“I have a lot of support from a broad political spectrum,” Bouchard said. “This election is not about endorsements; it’s about connecting with regular voters.”
Lewiston mayoral candidate Ben Chin, right, talks with former candidate Ron Potvin on Facebook Live on Wednesday morning.