LEWISTON — Judging from the mayoral debate held in Auburn earlier this week, candidates in the crowded field for mayor of Lewiston are anticipating questions about the proposed L-A merger during their debate Monday. 

But they’d like to have time to focus on other issues, as well.

“Personally, I feel like the merger has received quite a bit of attention, and I’m hoping to talk about the drug situation, about immigrants integrating,” candidate Ben Chin said Friday.

Chin said he’s prepared to discuss his thoughts on the merger, but, “at the end of the day, merger or no merger, we’ve got to figure out how to stop people from dying from drug overdoses, make sure people have heat in the winter, and that immigrants are learning English and entering the workforce.” 

Chin recently said he will not be voting in favor of the merger, telling supporters that as a progressive candidate, he doesn’t feel comfortable supporting the staff cuts proposed in the consolidation. 

“In my mind, it’s just a giant distraction from the life-or-death issues” Lewiston is facing, he said. 

He said his campaign is “in full throttle” heading into the final few weeks, despite about one-third of his campaign’s signs being removed recently from public spaces. 

Candidate Shane Bouchard has also said some of his signs were recently removed. 

Bouchard told the Sun Journal that he’s continuing his door-to-door push, talking to people about the issues. He said from what he’s heard, the merger is “issue No. 1,” followed by taxes and immigration. 

He said he’s counting on his three years of experience on the City Council to give him an edge over the other candidates during the debate. 

“I don’t waffle on my positions,” Bouchard said. “They are what they are, and they’re out there for everyone to see. I’m very aware of what we’ve done in this city over the last three years and where we’re going.” 

He said that “this late in the game,” he doesn’t believe the debate will be “a big needle mover” for any candidate. 

Candidate Mark Cayer said he attended the debate in Auburn this week, and was surprised by the time spent on the merger.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said Friday of the number of questions about the merger. “But there’s a lot of people that want to talk about it.” 

Cayer said that by attending the debate, he got a taste for some of the questions that could be asked in Lewiston. He said debates aren’t in his comfort zone, and he’s been talking with “a lot of people who, I believe, have skills at debating.”

Candidate Ron Potvin said he wasn’t surprised by how much the merger was discussed during Auburn’s debate, but residents of Lewiston are also talking about other issues. 

Potvin is co-chairman of the Coalition Opposed to Lewiston-Auburn Consolidation, but he said he’s “50-50” on whether to put too much focus on the merger during Monday’s debate. 

“I’d rather speak about my issues that I’m confident about,” he said, but added, “we’re not going to be able to avoid” the merger discussion.

During his campaign, Potvin said he’s put together neighborhood groups of supporters to help reach out to neighbors and family members. He said talking to them has allowed him to refine his message, and “zero in” on the issues that could come up Monday. 

He said he’s had a good response to his specific plans, including a $60 million downtown redevelopment plan. 

Candidate Charles Soule, who is running his eighth campaign for mayor, has said that if he doesn’t win this year, he’ll throw in the towel. 

He’s been hand-painting campaign signs and talking to local people at gas stations and near the Lewiston Public Library, where the debate will be hosted. 

His first run for mayor was in 1986. 

“I have been preparing for 30 years and started when I was Mr. Chin’s age, and I’m now three months shy of 65,” Soule said in an email. “I am obsessed with obtaining my last punch-list goal and have educated myself in all things.”

[email protected] 

LEWISTON DEBATE:

The Sun Journal and the Lewiston Public Library will host a mayoral debate at the library starting at 6 p.m. Monday night.

Candidates scheduled to attend are Shane Bouchard, Mark Cayer, Ben Chin, Ron Potvin and Charles Soule.

The public is encouraged to attend.

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 events will be live streamed on sunjournal.com and recorded by Great Falls TV for later broadcast.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Shane Bouchard

Mark Cayer 

Ben Chin

Ron Potvin

Charles Soule 


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