LEWISTON — Shane Bouchard will be the next mayor of Lewiston.
In a dramatic turnaround from his vote total in November, Bouchard overcame his progressive opponent Ben Chin, who had come out on top in the November election.
The unofficial tally Tuesday was 3,663 to 3,518, with Bouchard winning by 145 votes.
After results came in, Bouchard said voters chose “someone who is there for the people of Lewiston.”
“I think people realized the difference between campaign promises and actionable solutions,” he said from Marco’s restaurant in Lewiston, referring to his opponent.
Bouchard will replace longtime Mayor Bob Macdonald, who was termed out of office after three consecutive two-year terms. Chin lost to Macdonald during a runoff election in 2015, and Macdonald supported fellow Republican Bouchard to succeed him.
For Bouchard, the results completed a monthlong effort to gain ground on Chin, who received more than 40 percent of the vote during the initial election Nov. 7.
In that tally, Chin received 4,239 votes, including 1,280 absentee ballots, in total about 600 more votes than he got in Tuesday’s runoff election. Bouchard entered the runoff by besting the three remaining candidates with 29 percent of the vote, or 2,979 ballots.
In Lewiston, a runoff is held between the top two candidates if neither candidate receives a clear majority of 50 percent plus at least one vote.
Bouchard, 39, said Tuesday that Chin was on the opposite end of the ideological spectrum than the other four original candidates, meaning it was easier for him to gain supporters for the runoff.
Bouchard pitched himself as a candidate who is already enmeshed in city government. He’s been a city councilor for three years. He campaigned to change the city’s image problem throughout the state, to advocate against property tax increases and to “saying no to hosting new refugees at this time.”
For Chin, the loss is similar to the results of 2015. This time it was even closer. But Chin remained optimistic Tuesday night, saying that he’s “grateful to all the people of Lewiston.”
“It was such a close race, but I feel really good about how we conducted ourselves,” he said.
Chin campaigned on priorities of battling the opioid crisis, upgrading Lewiston’s downtown housing and putting more focus on immigrant integration.
The extra month of campaigning remained mostly civil and issues-oriented but had grown more contentious on social media during the final week.
Both candidates said Tuesday that a series of Chin’s campaign emails that were leaked may have played a small role in swinging some votes. In several internal campaign emails, Chin wrote that he had encountered racism on the campaign trail, among other notes pertaining to different neighborhoods. The stories then spread on social media and conservative-leaning websites.
“We didn’t get there tonight, but I’m confident we will someday,” Chin said about the results.
Bouchard said throughout the day, he was going through all of the options in his mind: a landslide loss, a landslide win or a close margin.
He said he realized how close the margin was.
Bouchard received a call from Chin at about 9:45 p.m. Bouchard told Chin, “I want you to be a part of this. I want you to be a part of the solutions for Lewiston.”
Chin said he will be “pulling all the levers of change that I possibly can” in Lewiston.
As the campaign rolled on, the state’s two major political parties also became more visibly involved, and each candidate received higher-profile endorsements. Chin received a video endorsement from U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, while Bouchard was endorsed by Gov. Paul LePage and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins.
Both candidates understood that Tuesday’s snow and freezing rain would be a factor and used social media to offer voters free rides to the polls. About 10,000 people voted in November, and about 8,200 voted during the mayoral runoff in 2015. The turnout was 7,186 on Tuesday.
“The fight continues,” Chin said late Tuesday. “I’m happy to be a part of the movement for change, no matter what.”
Bouchard said he’s looking forward to bringing his ideas to the mayor’s office and working with fellow Republican Jason Levesque in Auburn. But first, he said: sleep.
Shane Bouchard, standing, talks to supporters at Marco’s Ristorante in Lewiston on Tuesday after the polls closed. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)