A lot happened last Tuesday — let’s start local in Lewiston.
After defeating Donna Gillespie in last week’s race, Carl Sheline will be the next mayor of Lewiston. Sheline emerged victorious taking 60% of the vote, Gillespie with 40%.
In an interview with The Student, Sheline said, “I’m excited to move forward, move Lewiston forward. We need to make some right decisions pushing forward and I’m excited to be the next mayor.”
Sheline, a local businessman new to the political field, ran a campaign centered on Lewiston’s economic development and improving the city’s image. In a publicly-released statement after his victory, Sheline reflected on his campaign:
“Throughout this campaign, I have made it clear that to move Lewiston forward we must focus on economic development, improving our city’s image, and strengthening our schools to help put Lewiston back on the map to keep and attract businesses and families.”
Sheline, who has lived in Lewiston for 10 years, told The Student, “I see the incredible potential here and am excited to work with the rest of the newly elected officials. We all want the same thing.”
Sheline also says he sees Bates as a huge asset to the community. “As Lewiston’s third-largest employer, I hope to grow the relationship between Bates and Lewiston and show people that Bates is an asset,” he said.
Reflecting on Defeat
Gillespie believes she fared well considering her campaign.
“I did not ask for donations and it was a very last-minute decision for me to run. The main reason I decided to run was so people had a choice,” Gillespie told The Student.
Overall, Gillespie was unhappy with the race and the availability of information for Lewiston’s voters. In contrast to many past races, the Sun Journal chose not to hold a mayoral debate for this year’s race.
Gillespie, who ran for city council in 2019 and lost by 87 votes, has no future plans for involvement in local politics. Now retired, Gillespie previously worked for the state Department of Health and Human Services as a caseworker for 30 years.
Debate Continues Over Lewiston’s Governmental Processes
Last Tuesday also saw numerous changes to the Lewiston Charter approved by voters. Notable alterations include new staggered, two-year terms for elected officials, as well as changes to how special committees are formed and how appointments are made to the planning board.
While all of the adjustments are relatively minor, potential for significant changes to how local government operates in Lewiston will come in June of 2022 when a new charter commission is formed.
Ballot Questions, Referendums and More
In the Ward 3 race, Bates’ Elizabeth Eames, Associate Professor of Anthropology, was elected to serve on the Lewiston School Board.
Maine voters also strongly rejected the billion-dollar Central Maine Power Co. (CMP) corridor project. While seen as a victory by 59% of Maine voters, the referendum will certainly be challenged in court. This question was also the most expensive referendum campaign in Maine state history with advertisements nearly surpassing $100 million from both sides of the aisle combined.
If the referendum had passed, the highly-publicized initiative would’ve allowed construction and deforestation to continue through the state of Maine. Companies with a significant economic stake in the project mounted a convincing campaign full of terms like “Clean Energy Corridor” and “clean renewable hydropower.”
However, this project was viewed by the opposition as anything but clean. The CMP and Hydro-Québec were engaged in a multi-billion dollar profitable scheme that would’ve seen the transfer of pre-existing hydroelectric power from one market to another at the expense of Maine’s environment.
What Did Maine Voters Choose to Approve?
Voters approved a $100 million transportation bond, which would allocate significant funds for infrastructure projects in Maine. As outlined in a Press Herald article, $85 million would specifically be set aside for roads and bridges. Upon approval, this proposition would also bring in an additional $253 million in federal funds.
Voters also approved a first-of-its-kind “Right to Food” amendment, which, as put forth by proponents, presents an opportunity for Mainers to take back control of the food supply chain from large landowners and retailers.
Seen as a victory by Maine’s food sovereignty supporters, the movement gained its stride all the way back in 2017 when a similar law enabled local governments to allow smaller producers to have more control over their product sales.
The “Right to Food” amendment is likely to face upcoming legal challenges in court; opponents also say its passing would potentially bring animal welfare concerns. While not without controversy, this constitutional amendment is seen as a victory by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA). In a statement published on its website, the MOFGA said, “The vote on this referendum shows that Maine recognizes food as a basic human need and that all future policy decisions about our food supply should build on this value statement.”
Unofficial results from last Tuesday’s Municipal Election can be viewed here.