LEWISTON — Candidates running for municipal offices in Lewiston and Auburn said a housing crisis, workforce issues and keeping children in schools are among the biggest challenges heading into the Nov. 2 election.

Almost all the issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic in some way — a fact that was highlighted during the virtual candidates forum Thursday for all those running for mayor, City Council and School Committee in both cities.

While several either declined to attend or were not able to attend, candidates used the quick sessions to introduce themselves to potential voters and lay out possible differences.

Prior to the forum, 33 of the 51 candidates, including declared write-in candidates, had confirmed participation.

Time was allotted for each race in both cities, with 90-second candidate introductions followed by a two-question “Q&A” session. Each candidate was asked how they’d handle the current divisiveness that has become typical of politics, as well as identify the biggest challenge facing their city.

LEWISTON

 

In Lewiston, mayoral candidates Carl Sheline and Donna Gillespie laid out visions for their term. Sheline said his primary focus would be the city’s image, pushing for beautification efforts and economic development to “fill vacant storefronts.”

“People are talking about the Lewiston of 30 or 40 years ago,” he said, referring to the city’s outside image. “I will beat the drum for Lewiston.”

Gillespie said her focus would be “continuing the trend of Lewiston moving in a positive direction.” She said infrastructure, revenue, substance use and homelessness were issues that need attention.

Potential city councilors said Lewiston is facing equity issues, a housing crisis and poverty — issues that could be addressed by the next City Council as it begins the $30 million Choice Neighborhoods redevelopment.

Ward 1 candidates Dane Morgan and Linda Scott said they’d both like to serve as the council’s representative to the School Committee. Morgan said his military experience gives him the necessary tools to work collaboratively. Scott said she’s “already doing the work” to help issues in her neighborhood, also mentioning Lewiston issues like a needed citywide revaluation and zoning updates to increase housing options.

For School Committee, several candidates repeated similar issues: getting students caught up after a year interrupted by the pandemic, and a teacher shortage.

Janet Beaudoin, running for reelection in Ward 2, said finding good teachers and offering competitive pay is a “giant hurdle.”

Edward Jawor, also running for the seat, said the district needs to start “thinking creatively” to address teacher wages and retention.

AUBURN

In Auburn, candidates raised issues like the city’s current push for housing growth, attracting new residents, water quality at Lake Auburn, and keeping kids in schools as much as possible. The issues mirrored Auburn’s twin city.

Rick Whiting, running for Ward 1 City Council, said the city needs to push growth but needs “to use a scalpel opposed to a sledgehammer” in its current look at zoning rules.

He also said Auburn must “take good care of our lake. We can’t afford to let the water quality degrade,” he said, referring to a forthcoming report on Lake Auburn.

Ryan Hawes, a Ward 2 candidate, said Auburn has to grow smart. His opponent, Councilor Tim Macleod, said growth is needed to “reign in” what the city pays in taxes.

In the Ward 5 race, two write-in candidates who stepped in to run campaigns against longtime Councilor Leroy Walker attended the forum, but Walker did not.

Kathy Shaw, an Auburn farmer, said people in Auburn “deserve to have a choice,” adding, “It might be time for change in our representation.”

Joseph DeMotta, also running a write-in campaign, said Auburn needs to put its focus on growing small and medium-sized businesses, but said “it all comes back to education.”

Shaw, referring to the housing discussion, said officials “need to find a way to sit down and have calm conversations about housing and growth” in Auburn.

For the two at-large seats, incumbent Belinda Gerry said Auburn has to work on “restoring the faith the public has in their public officials,” and focus on helping “our mom and pop businesses.” She also said she’d work to prevent any form of swimming at Lake Auburn.

Dana Staples, running for one of the seats, said Auburn is ripe with activity, and that incoming councilors will have to be willing to “do the research.”

For School Committee, the issues sounded similar to Lewiston: keeping student safe but in schools, and “getting kids back what they lost,” according to Ward 2 member Pamela Hart, who is running unopposed.

Pamela Albert, who is one of five candidates running for two at-large seats, is an epidemiologist at the Maine Center for Disease Control. She said the committee needs to be “doing whatever we can to keep students there, and limit quarantines, while also supporting our exhausted school staff.”

Two other at-large candidates — Patricia Gautier, who served on the committee from 2017-19, and Jodi Goldrup also attended the forum.

Gautier said COVID-19 is still the key problem.

“This is not over,” she said.

Goldrup continued a forum theme stating, the school district has to “get kids caught up.”

The forum was organized by the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, the Sun Journal and the public libraries of both cities.

THE CANDIDATES

Auburn mayor: Jason Levesque, unopposed

Auburn City Council

Ward 1: Eric Gould; Richard Whiting

Ward 2: Ryan Hawes; Timothy MacLeod (incumbent)

Ward 3: Stephen Milks (incumbent), unopposed

Ward 4: Joseph Morin, unopposed

Ward 5: Joseph DeMotta, write-in candidate; Kathy Shaw, write-in candidate; Leroy Walker (incumbent)

At Large: Belinda Gerry (incumbent); James Lashua; Dana Staples

Auburn School Committee

Ward 1: Clarisa Perez-Armendariz, write-in candidate, unopposed

Ward 2: Pamela Hart (incumbent), unopposed

Ward 3: Karen Mathieu (incumbent), unopposed

Ward 4: Brian Belknap (incumbent) unopposed

Ward 5: Daniel Poisson (incumbent) unopposed

At-large: Pamela Albert; Faith Fontaine (incumbent); Patricia Gautier; Jodi Goldrup; David Simpson

Lewiston mayor: Donna Gillespie; Carl Sheline

Lewiston City Council

Ward 1: Dane Morgan; Linda Scott

Ward 2: Robert McCarthy; Caleb Roebuck

Ward 3: Scott Harriman, unopposed

Ward 4: Rick LaChapelle, unopposed

Ward 5: Laurier Pease; Amy Clark Sanchez; Charles Soule

Ward 6: Lee Clement (incumbent), unopposed

Ward 7: Stephanie Gelinas (incumbent), unopposed

Lewiston School Committee

Ward 1: Bruce Damon (incumbent); Matthew Jadud

Ward 2: Janet Beaudoin (incumbent); Edward Jawor; Jami Simpson

Ward 3: Elizabeth Eames; Felicia Hinkley, write-in candidate

Ward 4: Tanya Whitlow (incumbent), unopposed

Ward 5: Ashley Medina, unopposed

Ward 6: Leigh Albert; Meghan Hird

Ward 7: Paul Beauparlant (incumbent); Heather Benson

At-large: Jason Lavoie; Megan Parks (incumbent)

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