AUBURN — The candidates for mayor, Adam Lee and Jason Levesque, used very similar terms Monday to describe how the merger debate is impacting the numerous local municipal races.  

“It’s sucking the oxygen out of the other campaigns,” Lee said. 

Levesque said, “It definitely takes the air out of the room.” 

But, as both candidates have been ramping up their campaigns over the past few weeks, they will gain the spotlight during a mayoral debate Wednesday at Central Maine Community College, and both are hoping to use the opportunity to grab momentum heading into the final few weeks before Nov. 7. 

Levesque is CEO of Argo Contact Centers in Lewiston, and last ran for political office in 2010, when he was unsuccessful in his bid for U.S. Congress. 

He said his campaign has taken shape over the past three weeks and he’s been talking to residents, over the phone and door-to-door. He’s also been more visible at recent City Council meetings and has shared on social media his ride-alongs with the Auburn police and fire departments, which he called “eye-opening.” 

He said that while he’s hearing from residents that “the property tax burden is too high,” there are numerous capital and staffing needs for Auburn public safety. 

Meanwhile, Lee said he’s been keeping on top of a pretty strict door-to-door campaign that he set for himself, and he’s talking to residents about the issues they’d like to see resolved.

A few of the concerns he’s repeatedly heard, he said, is a lack of connection to local government officials, and the decreased ability for local elected officials to work together despite political party. 

“They don’t like that local politics is starting to look like what they see at the federal and state level,” he said. 

Lee said he’s been preparing for the debate by talking to the public. He said he’s hoping some of the questions posed focus on the powers and role of the mayor’s position. 

In Auburn, the mayor runs City Council meetings, but does not vote unless there is a tie, meaning he cedes most policymaking control to councilors, who can also further direct the mayor’s duties. The mayor is the official head of the city for ceremonial purposes and also has the ability to create, drive and appoint city committees. 

For the past few weeks, Lee has been publishing letters addressing the seven responsibilities of the mayor that are stipulated by City Charter. It’s part of his campaign to restore “trust and transparency” at Auburn Hall, a phrase that appears on his campaign signs. 

“I’m trying to get us back to that, because I think that regardless of someone’s political perspective they can believe in the charter, and everybody playing their role within the charter,” he said. 

Lee is an attorney at Trafton, Matzen, Belleau & Frenette and serves as an Auburn city councilor for Ward 4. 

There have also been numerous recent letters to the Sun Journal touting both candidates. Earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, wrote in support of Levesque, stating, “From his service in the U.S. Army, to building a strong business, to his civic involvement, Levesque has demonstrated outstanding leadership abilities.” 

A number of local officials have expressed support for Lee, including former councilor and current candidate Bob Hayes, who said, “With experience and preparedness, Adam Lee will properly and respectfully fulfill his responsibilities as mayor, making residents and businesses proud of Auburn’s representation and leadership locally and within the state.” 

Heading into the debate, Levesque said he’s been crowdsourcing questions and answers from the public to prepare. He’s asked residents to pose questions they’d like the candidates to be asked at the debate, and followed up with other residents and business owners “to see how they’d address those questions.” 

Lee said he plans to “keep talking to people – it’s the only way to do it.” 

But, as both candidates discuss issues with the public, Levesque says “the merger is topic No. 1.” 

Both candidates have also made clear their positions on the upcoming merger referendum. Lee has said he supports the merger, while Levesque is opposed.

Many have argued that where candidates stand on the merger is unimportant, given the official transition wouldn’t occur until 2020, as well as the range of other issues facing both cities, but Levesque disagrees. 

“One can’t represent the city in full spirit of the position of mayor if they also advocate for the delusion of the very thing they want to represent,” Levesque said about the merger. 

“My fear is that everybody pays too much attention to that issue and (they) don’t pay attention to the thing that really matters, which is electing the right people,” Lee said. “Pass or fail, it’s going to matter who we have in positions of government for the next two years.” 

The debate begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 18, in Kirk Hall at Central Maine Community College. 

[email protected] 

Lee v. Levesque

The Sun Journal, the Auburn Public Library and Central Maine Community College will host a mayoral debate starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Kirk Hall, CMCC.

Questions will be taken from the live and online audiences and can also be submitted in advance to Mark Mogensen, managing editor/days of the Sun Journal, at [email protected]

The event will be livestreamed on sunjournal.com and recorded by Great Falls TV for later broadcast.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Adam Lee 

Jason Levesque 


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