This week’s issue is that last before the November 3rd elections in Lewiston. In order to inform the members of the student population who plan to vote, we have compiled a set of candidate profiles for all mayoral candidates and city councilor candidates for wards one and three (which contain Bates College). All candidates were contacted via email or phone and presented with the same set of questions. Information included in these profiles comes directly from the candidates themselves, from their campaign sites, campaign materials, previous interviews or comments from the October 5th forum. Note that Mayor Macdonald did respond to requests for an interview, but was scheduled after deadline.

Ben Chin ’07

Current Occupation:

Political Director, Maine People’s Alliance.

Political Experience:

“As a community organizer and political director for the past eight years, I’ve protected 50,000 seniors from losing prescription drug coverage, negotiated a $22 million property tax assistance deal for low and middle income Mainers, and gathered 70,000 signatures in 23 days to protect same day voter registration by ballot initiative.  I’m currently leading the volunteer effort to raise Maine’s minimum wage.”

Top issue to address if elected:

“Lewiston has too many corporate slumlords that take advantage of people, ruin our reputation, and block legitimate development.  I’m the only candidate with a plan to create 100 units of resident-owned housing, revitalize Lisbon street, foster immigrant integration, and create high-wage blue collar jobs in solar energy.”

Why did you decide to run?

“My wife, Nicola, and I are expecting our first child at the end of the month.  We know Lewiston has the potential to be a great place to raise a young family, something I’ve believed in ever since I graduated from Bates in 2007.  To realize that potential, however, we need new leadership.  Our current mayor spends his energy working to make asylum-seeking immigrants homeless, not working to make Lewiston a good city for everyone.”

What are the top three issues for the Lewiston community today and how does he plan to address them if elected?

“Lewiston’s bad reputation is the core of all our issues.  If we want to improve our housing stock, create jobs, and fund our schools, we need to attract investment that stimulates economic growth.  If we continue to have a mayor that focuses only on scapegoating immigrants and the poor, we will continue to be known only as a city filled with racial conflict.  It’s time to have leadership that can articulate a vision for our future that everyone can rally behind.”

What sets him apart from his opponents? 

“I’m the only candidate that has articulated a concrete plan to achieve the above, and drafted a budget with realistic funding sources.  You can find it at benchinformayor.com. I’m the only candidate that has a track record of actually getting big things done for real people–whether its keeping prescription drugs affordable for seniors, or making sure people don’t lose their homes to high property taxes and urban renewal” initiatives from the city.  I’m also the only candidate that developed his platform by developing a community survey, having thousands of conversations, and meeting with business and labor leaders.”

Luke Jensen

Current Occupation:

Banking specialist for TD Bank. Also, in 2014 he was a candidate for House District 58 of the Maine Legislature, and he is a current member of the Lewiston Historic Preservation review board.

Top issue to address if elected:

The continued development of the Riverfront area, creating a vacant poverty registry and creating an advisory board to give our suburban and rural residents a stronger voice at city hall.

What sets you apart from your opponents?

“I’m the only candidate who was actually born and raised in Lewiston. I’m much younger than my opponents (I’m 24), and can relate to our young people much better. I’m probably the only candidate who knows who Fetty Wap is… Lewiston is my home, and I want to make it the strongest it can be. We can do better, and we must,” Jensen said.

According to The Sun Journal, Jensen is also in favor of cutting down on low-income housing in downtown Lewiston and providing living for “young professionals” in a “newly revitalized part of the city.”

On Jensen’s Facebook campaign page, he wrote, “Lewiston is not a dying city; it is a Phoenix rising from the ashes, ready to spread its wings. A young mayor would certainly portray Lewiston as the new and revitalized place our city is becoming.”

Mayor Robert Macdonald

Current occupation:

Current mayor of Lewiston. Before becoming mayor in 2011, Macdonald was a detective for the Lewiston Police Department from 1977 to 2000, and an Ed Tech at the Lewiston Middle School from 2000 to 2000, and an Ed Tech at the Lewiston Middle School from 2000 to 2010.

Political Experience:

Macdonald’s first run for elective office was in 2011, when he became mayor for the first time. He defeated former Mayor Larry Gilbert in 2013. Macdonald touts his record as a job creator, pointing to the opening of Argo Marketing’s new Lisbon street office under his watch. He also argues that a close relationship with Maine’s Governor Paul LePage helps him fight for Lewiston’s interests at the state level.

Top issues to address if elected:

Welfare spending, housing and tenancy issues and Lewiston’s reputation statewide.

What are the top three issues for the Lewiston community today and how does he plan to address them if elected?

Welfare spending: “The only solution” to many of Lewiston’s problems “is welfare reform,” Macdonald said in last week’s mayoral forum. The mayor has made an international name for himself attacking state welfare spending—particularly for new arrivals to Lewiston—in the service of protecting the elderly and property taxpayers. Macdonald recently announced his intentions in the Twin City Times of submitting a bill to the state legislature to create a website that lists publicly the names, addresses and amount of benefits that individual welfare recipients receive.

Downtown housing: In the forum, Macdonald asserted that the City of Lewiston needs to continue demolitions of abandoned, dangerous housing. However, he also has suggested in the Twin City Times that tenants need to do more work to keep their apartments in good shape, and plans to propose legislation that criminalizes tenant negligence in that regard.

Lewiston’s Reputation: According to Macdonald, “our reputation is killing us.” At Monday’s forum, Macdonald decried the fact that “we’re defined by one small piece of the city,” referring to the City’s downtown, and pointed to work that groups like L/A Arts are doing to “bring back the city.” Macdonald has promised to better advertise Lewiston’s positive aspects in a final term as mayor.

What sets him apart from his opponents?

One of Macdonald’s greatest strengths is his outspokenness. He has a reputation and track record for making blunt and often controversial comments attacking “do-gooders,” “bums,” and “liberal progressives,” in his weekly “Enough is Enough” column in the Twin City Times and other media outlets. However, these comments have tended to resonate with many older members of Lewiston’s population concerned about government spending and property taxes.

Steve Morgan

Current Occupation:

Real estate broker.

Political Experience: Two years as President of the Lewiston City Council, five years as Chairman of the Planning Board in Lewiston, and five years on the State Board of Property Tax Review.

Why did you decide to run?

“I enjoy being involved and trying to make a difference. About five years ago, the real estates market and the economy were suffering. My business was suffering just as much as everyone’s business was.

I had to concentrate on my own real estate business; but the market has rebounded now. I talked to my family and thought it was time for me to get back into politics.”

What are the top three issues for the Lewiston community today and how to plan to address them if elected?

“The answer to all three top issues is bringing business back to Lewiston.

During those tough years economically for everyone, the city council dramatically cut as many things as they could. How do you get more money in the pot? Business is the answer.

Some day when we restore all the things we had to cut, I would like to see the taxes go down a little bit. However, now, because we have to restore all those things, we have to charge more taxes.

There is a lot of undeveloped land in Lewiston that is owned by big landowners and I would like to see that area developed with different business so that people of Lewiston have place with restaurants and shops.”

What sets you apart from your opponents?

“Political experience and life experience, dramatically. I am about six months away from 60th birthday. A couple of the other candidates are young and very well spoken. Luke Jensen has not engaged in bunch of things yet. Similarly, Ben Chin is very well spoken, but his plan has some holes in it. If somebody were to look at it, they would see that it is all based on money and the places where he is getting his money from are not promised. Robert MacDonald is need to be more approachable is he wants to be an ambassador for Lewiston, for he has the tendency to yell.

I would make a good ambassador for the city as well as have the experience to lead the way. I’ve been in the real estate business and I have the skills to negotiate which helps out when you are talking to businesses potentially coming to Lewiston.”

Charles Soule

Current occupation:

Retired

Political Experience:

Answer not provided.

Why did you decide to run?

“Lewiston immigration problems and the conundrum that the children find themselves in as Mr. Trump wants to deport parents of children that are citizens under the 14th Amendment.

I live in a tenement with a child that is not a citizen and whose brother is. One day he stated that his brother is a citizen and he is not. Is he living in fear of loosing his brother through deportation?

And, is his self-esteem being undermined by the procrastination of the Republican and Democratic governments.

I believe, it is time to bring these people out of the dark and into the light!”

What are the top three issues for the Lewiston community today and how to plan to address them if elected?

“I have a problem with the Lewiston School Board; it is allowing the students of Lewiston to opt out of the Maine State Assessment Exam that takes place on Saturday. I would insist that the exam be held on a regular day and students will not be able to opt out of the exam, except for medical reasons.”

What sets you apart from your opponents?

“I have not expected any monies and I have been seeking the office of Mayor of Lewiston for 30 years. I have been knocked down several times, yet I picked myself up, brushed myself odd, and continued trying.”