June 20, 2018
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Signs in Union election stir debate

Stephen Betts | BDN
Stephen Betts | BDN
This yellow sign, one of several posted around town, is generating debate in Union.
By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

UNION, Maine — Signs that call for rejecting Tea Party-backed candidates in the local selectmen’s race have prompted a complaint to the state.

But the executive director of the agency that oversees state elections said no laws have been violated.

The signs were posted Friday night around town including on the Union Commons in the center of town. The yellow signs state “No Tea Party, vote for Ashworth & Knight.”

Abraham Knight and Walter Ashworth are both seeking seats to the Union Board of Selectmen. The election is Tuesday, June 12.

Knight is seeking a single three-year seat against Sara Moore. Ashworth is seeking a two-year seat against incumbent Selectman Gregory Grotton.

Ashworth said Monday he had no involvement in the placement of the signs and that neither he nor Knight know who put them up.

“I think they are uncalled for in a local election,” Ashworth said.

Knight could not be reached for comment.

John Field, a resident of town, contacted the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics & Election Practices to file a complaint that the signs did not state who paid for or authorized them.

Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the commission, said that state laws on signs apply only to state and county races or municipalities with 15,000 or more residents. Municipalities with fewer than 15,000 people can adopt the state law, but that must be approved by a vote of residents in the town.

Union has a population of 3,592, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

Union held a special town meeting Jan. 30 and one of the warrant articles was to have town elections follow the state’s campaign reporting laws. That article was defeated 49-33.

Residents, however, did approve 40-34 an article to follow the state law on referendum campaigns.

Field said Monday after receiving a response from Wayne that he accepts that the posting of the signs by anonymous parties is legal. But, he said, he does not like the way this was done. He said he suspects that it is being done by people from outside the community, noting that similar signs were posted against what were termed Tea Party candidates in the selectmen’s race in the nearby town of Rockport last year.

Grotton said he was surprised by the signs.

“I was kind of floored. I’m not a Tea Party candidate and have never attended a Tea Party meeting,” Grotton said.

He said the signs insinuate that he is a Tea Party candidate. He said he was bothered that the anonymous sign posters did not have the guts to identify themselves.

Moore could not be reached for comment.

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