LEWISTON — In the month since the November election, Jon Connor has been hearing often from residents who say they were unaware there was a runoff election in December.

“What we’re finding is a lot of people don’t know that there’s a runoff,” he said. “We’re talking to a lot of folks and they say the same thing.”

That includes many people who voted on Nov. 7, he said, when, after he received roughly 600 fewer votes than incumbent Mayor Carl Sheline, Connor was thrust into the two-man runoff.

According to the Lewiston City Charter, the mayor must be elected by a majority vote, meaning 50% plus at least one vote. Sheline received 45% of the vote in November, ensuring the city would see its first mayoral runoff since 2017.

Both candidates have spent the last few weeks pushing hard for voter turnout given Lewiston’s unconventional format, including encouraging people to take advantage of absentee and early voting at City Hall. According to City Clerk Kathy Montejo, her office issued 2,013 absentee ballots before the Dec. 7 deadline, and 1,816 have been returned already. Roughly 2,700 people voted absentee in November.

The candidates have also used the extra campaign time to attempt to sway voters on their leadership styles, knocking on doors and crafting content for social media. Both are saying they can put an end to the division on the City Council that has marked the current term.


The Sun Journal spoke with each candidate in the days before the Dec. 12 runoff, where they touched on crime and homelessness, economic development, partisan politics and their hopes for 2024.


From even before the runoff, Connor has campaigned as the law and order candidate. He’s quick to point out Lewiston’s issues with crime, homelessness and substance use — issues that are not unique to Lewiston but that he believes are exacerbated by current policies and a lack of accountability.

Jon Connor stands on Pine Street on Friday afternoon, across the street from Lewiston City Hall. Connor is hoping to win a runoff election this coming Tuesday against incumbent Mayor Carl Sheline.  Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

During a recent interview on WGAN radio, Connor said Lewiston’s current approach of highlighting only the positive is “putting lipstick on a pig” without addressing real issues.

When asked how he would tackle crime, he said it “starts with outright support of our law enforcement officers, which has kind of been eroding.” Connor gained the endorsement of the Lewiston police patrol union, which had recently criticized Sheline for the makeup and potential outcomes of his community safety committee.

The current council, however, in 2022 approved the largest pay increase Lewiston police had received in years, which added about $400,000 to the fiscal 2024 budget.

Connor said he would also work with the Androscoggin County District Attorney’s Office and the state to “make sure that when we arrest folks that the law is being applied.”


“That’s going to be an uphill climb but one that I think is worth climbing,” he said.

When asked about the issue of homelessness, which arguably caused the most friction on the current council, Connor said some policies relating to substance use and homelessness “enable” people and make the issue worse. He said if someone is given shelter or certain amenities “then I don’t think it’s unrealistic to have some sort of expectation from them, whether that’s remaining clean to remain in the shelter, or meet certain objectives.”

“To me that’s accountability,” he said, especially if taxpayers are supporting those programs.

The city provides Community Development Block Grant funding to several nonprofits that are directly involved with homelessness, but does not provide any direct funding to the four existing private shelters here. The city does not have a municipally run shelter.

Sheline has advocated during his term for establishing some kind of shelter in Lewiston with the help of local, state and federal partners. Several attempts by Lewiston Housing and others to pursue shelter projects in the city over the last term were ultimately shot down by the current council. Three of the councilors who were the most outspoken on the issue lost reelection bids in November.

Sheline said that while going door-to-door recently he’s heard “concerns regarding our unhoused.”


“I look forward to working with the new City Council on this issue,” he said. “We are finally in a better position to make some of the positive changes I’ve been pushing for.”

Connor said that as mayor, he wants accountability to apply to himself as well.

“I’m human and when I make errors I expect that,” he said. “I think that’s lacking in a lot of political spheres nowadays. People don’t want to have their wrongs pointed out, but I’m OK with that.”


Sheline has reason to believe the next council will be more aligned on issues. Five of the seven who won seats last month have said they support Sheline for mayor.

In recent letters to the editor, two incoming councilors said they support Sheline partly because of his constant work to highlight local businesses. A mayor is generally expected to be the ceremonial figurehead of the city. During his term, Sheline has become known for his constant presence downtown, talking with constituents, attending events and posting photos at local restaurants.

Josh Nagine, the incoming Ward 1 councilor, said Sheline has been a “staunch advocate for the city.”


“As Lewiston’s ‘head cheerleader,’ he has worn through a couple thousand miles of shoe leather to be present in our community when it mattered,” he said.

Incoming Councilor Susan Longchamps, who owns Webb’s Market, said Sheline “champions local businesses,” and that “his dedication to daily involvement reflects a mayor devoted to our community’s betterment.”

Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline reads a poem he helped write at the March 2023 opening of Dairy Joy on Campus Avenue in Lewiston. Sheline is hoping to win a runoff election against challenger Jon Connor on Tuesday.   Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file

Even Connor admits that Sheline has “probably been one of the best mayors for promoting our city,” which he told WGAN. But, he added, “the problem is you’re not fixing the issues.”

Some on social media have criticized Sheline for the restaurant selfies despite Sheline making his intentions clear from the start of his term.

On the night of his inauguration, Sheline announced an economic development committee to help address poverty and increase investment in Lewiston. The committee’s work has been quiet, with no formal announcements yet. Sheline said it’s ongoing. Over the past term, Lewiston has attracted several new housing developments, with more in the pipeline.

“One significant take-away so far is the need for improved and efficient communication between the city and local businesses followed by action,” Sheline said. “To succeed, Lewiston must adapt quickly to business needs.”


He said businesses tell him that when they call, the city needs to have answers quickly.

“The market and financials are tight and we cannot afford to be a step behind other communities,” he said.

To Connor, one of the most stark issues has been an inept City Council. Policy initiatives can’t move forward without council backing, and the current council has disagreed on most.

On a recent Facebook post, Connor said it’s been easy to see the division on the council, and that a mayor needs to “navigate those disagreements and try to find solutions rather than become part of the problem in antagonizing one side or the other, or going to the papers or going to social media.”

When asked about how he would solve the division, Connor said he’s always “tried to look at things from the other person’s perspective.”

“Then I try to find middle ground and common ground and solutions,” he said. “You can’t just dig in your heels. I pride myself on being professional, and treating people I don’t agree with with the same respect.”


Sheline said the voters have already spoken and “addressed those causing the divisiveness and inaction” on the council. He said he’s grateful for the support of the majority of the incoming council, and also looks forward to working with Eryn Soule-Leclair and Timothy Gallant, who support Connor for mayor.

Talking to voters recently, Sheline said “they made it clear the negativity was tiring and they were eager for leaders who listened to all sides and were focused on solutions.”

“People are upbeat and positive about the changes of the City Council and believe the new council and I will now be able to lead the city in the right direction,” he said. “Together, I know we will listen and take action.”


Connor graduated from Lewiston High School, started a family while young, and moved back to Lewiston after a 20-year career in the Air Force. He ran for state representative in the Maine Legislature and won, but then lost reelection in 2022. He said he decided to run for mayor because he “didn’t like the direction” Lewiston was heading.

While races for elected office in Lewiston are nonpartisan by rule, it’s inevitable that partisan politics come into play, especially in hyper-partisan times.

Jon Connor stands on Pine Street on Friday afternoon, across the street from Lewiston City Hall. Connor is hoping to win a runoff election this coming Tuesday against incumbent Mayor Carl Sheline. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

During his time in the Legislature, Connor joined a conservative Political Action Committee called “Take Back Maine,” which had been formed by Adrienne Bennett, former Gov. Paul LePage’s press secretary, during her run for U.S. Congress in 2020. Take Back Maine’s social media is full of content questioning masking and vaccines during the pandemic, Critical Race Theory, and President Biden’s election win.


Connor said he’s received some questions about his involvement in the PAC, but said he’s never been responsible for its social media posts. When asked if he believes some people might be turned off by its partisan nature, he said it works both ways. He’s sure there are conservative voters who might see left-leaning social media content from local candidates and say they’ll “never vote for that.”

“I know I’m never going to please everybody,” he said. “I’m not going to censor anybody, but those who want to know where I stand on things, if they ask me, I’ll tell them. I think we need more of that. I don’t think my opponent is made up strictly by what is said on social media, either by him or other people. I try to get to know him directly by talking to him. It’s about treating everybody like a human being and not like their political beliefs are what make them.”

Gallant, a U.S. Navy veteran who was unopposed for the Ward 7 seat, has supported Connor for mayor. In a recent letter to the Sun Journal, Gallant said, “The best leaders seek to create and inspire unity among team members, rather than allow adversity to erode morale.”

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Lewiston, left, presents Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline with a U.S. flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14. Sheline is hoping to win a runoff election against challenger Jon Connor on Tuesday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal file

Sheline, who grew up in Arizona and moved to Maine in 2010, said he decided to run for mayor when former Mayor Mark Cayer did not seek reelection in 2021. He worked in health care for 10 years, becoming involved in the local chamber and business community, and now owns Munka, a co-working and gallery space on Lisbon Street.

During his term, Sheline has been close with prominent Democrats including Gov. Janet Mills and U.S. Rep. Jared Golden.

Last week, he told WGAN that his priorities during a second term would be continuing to support the business community, fill vacant storefronts and help businesses expand. He also pointed to rezoning conducted by the City Council in an effort to encourage more housing.

While knocking on doors, Sheline said “people have expressed their gratitude for my calm and steady leadership, as well as my willingness to meet them where they are and listen.”

When asked about his campaign, Connor said voters have already signaled they are looking for change this year.

“People have made it clear that they want change — on the School Committee and on the City Council, and even in the mayor’s race, 55% of people said they want change,” he said. “So we’re asking them to come back out and vote for that change, and we’ll get in there and make the changes that they’ve asked us to make.”

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