First-time Bangor council race winners reflect on campaigns

Newly elected City Councilor Gibran Graham hugs his daughter Vanessa Graham while celebrating his win at Coespace on Tuesday evening in Bangor.
Newly elected City Councilor Gibran Graham hugs his daughter Vanessa Graham while celebrating his win at Coespace on Tuesday evening in Bangor. Buy Photo
Posted Nov. 06, 2013, at 6:06 p.m.
Last modified Nov. 06, 2013, at 9:58 p.m.
Newly elected City Councilor Joshua Plourde celebrates at Nocturnem Draft Haus on Tuesday evening.
Newly elected City Councilor Joshua Plourde celebrates at Nocturnem Draft Haus on Tuesday evening. Buy Photo

BANGOR, Maine — Two new members will join the City Council next week. One believes the city could become the “Silicon Valley of the East.” The other wants to continue to help Bangor grow as a tourism, cultural and arts destination for the region.

Josh Plourde, 22, is a relative newcomer to Bangor, especially when compared to incumbent City Council Chairman Nelson Durgin, who he edged out as top vote-getter 2,275 to 2,220 in Tuesday’s election. Gibran Graham, 40, garnered 1,837 votes in his first council race to secure the third and final seat in this year’s election.

Plourde was born in a Bangor hospital, but was raised in Enfield and attended high school in Lincoln. His family has deep Franco-American roots, migrating from Canada to the Lincoln area over three generations, he said Wednesday.

Plourde has lived in Bangor for about five years. Contrast that with Durgin, 75, who has lived in Bangor with his wife, Carla, since 1967.

Durgin’s extensive military career culminated in 1991 with his promotion to major general and appointment as Maine’s adjutant general and commissioner of the Department of Defense, Veterans, and Emergency Management. After that, Durgin was appointed executive director and administrator of the not-for-profit Phillips-Strickland House, which provides residential care services to elderly residents in Bangor.

“I’m not an established Bangor name,” Plourde said Wednesday, adding that he had to spend countless hours networking and knocking on doors strategically selected from Bangor’s voter lists so he could hit the highest number of voting households possible. He estimates that he visited or called about 2,500 homes in Bangor since July.

“I worked my butt off,” he said.

Plourde is creative strategist at the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center, a job that evolved from his work at the center while he was a student.

As a councilor, he said he wants to help Bangor grow into the “Silicon Valley of the East,” by attracting business startups, keeping young people in the city who might otherwise travel to Boston or New York to kick off their careers. Plourde said Bangor has the advantage of a low cost of living compared with other Northeast technology hubs. Spreading high-speed fiber-optic Internet service across the city will make it a more attractive place to set up shop, he said.

After election results came in Tuesday night, Graham traveled across the city with his campaign manager, posting notes that read “Thank You” on each of his campaign signs. In all, there were more than 150, and the process took all night.

“I saw the sunrise,” Graham said with a laugh Wednesday afternoon. He said it was important for him to do the job himself as soon as possible after results came in because it made for a stronger expression of his gratitude.

Graham stood at the polls, shaking hands and greeting voters, from open to close on Tuesday — 13 hours total.

Graham, who was raised in Massachusetts, has lived in Bangor for about 17 years. Here he raises his 15-year-old daughter, a sophomore at Bangor High School.

He has worked in retail and marketing positions and is now marketing coordinator for Briar Patch, a downtown book and toy store.

He said he hopes to continue pushing Bangor as a “preferred destination” for tourism and a hub for arts and culture in the state and the Northeast.

Graham said events he has organized for Fusion:Bangor and on his own, such as the Kid Central Festival, served as a good way to meet people and may have given his campaign a boost.

Graham said his Facebook page allowed him to avoid investing or raising a lot of money for his campaign and he’ll continue to use it as a councilor to spread news about the city and reach out to constituents.

According to campaign finance reports filed in late October, Graham raised just $850 for the election, the second-smallest amount in the crop of six candidates.

The two newcomers elected to the council continue a recent trend. Since 2011, 60 percent of Bangor incumbents who sought re-election lost. In 2011 both incumbents, Richard Bronson and David Nealley, lost their seats. Nealley won his way back onto the council in 2012, but not when he was an incumbent. Their spots were taken over by newcomers Ben Sprague, then 28, and James Gallant, then 31. Incumbent Councilor Pat Blanchette was re-elected in 2012.

In Tuesday’s election, incumbent Councilor Charlie Longo finished fourth, 217 votes behind Graham. Longo also raised more money than any candidate in the election, as of late October. He raised more than $4,000. Next closest was Plourde, with $3,288.

Hal Wheeler, who served two nonconsecutive terms on the council, received 1,156 votes. He raised about $875 for his campaign as of late October.

Victor Kraft, who had said he was running solely on the issue of shutting down Waterfront Concerts, or at least carefully regulating contract negotiations between the city and the concert series, drew 560 votes in this election. He had said he didn’t plan on spending any money on his campaign, and has not reported any campaign contributions or expenses to the city.

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