Green Independent candidate dragged unwillingly into Brunswick spat

Posted Oct. 25, 2012, at 3:10 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 26, 2012, at 1:57 p.m.

BRUNSWICK, Maine — A furor surrounding a campaign sign posted in the window of a Maine Street business that says it’s under the threat of a boycott has pulled a candidate for the House of Representatives into a conflict that he said he didn’t create and doesn’t support.

Frederick Horch of Brunswick is locked in a three-way race as a Green Independent candidate for the District 66 House seat. A couple of weeks ago, he noticed that the owners of the Gulf of Maine Books on Maine Street — who have an outspoken history of supporting the Green Independent party — had posted a campaign sign in their window in support of Matthea Daughtry, who is running as a Democrat against Horch and Republican Grant Connors.

Horch said he emailed one of the owners of the store, Gary Lawless, to talk over his candidacy, but never received a reply. So basically, Horch dropped it.

“I understand that in a campaign people are going to support other candidates,” he said. “I moved on.”

On Wednesday, Horch was having work done on his home and didn’t have electricity through the morning. When he logged on to his computer, he found that in a few short hours his candidacy was at the center of a conflict that had already reached untold numbers of email accounts in the area and been blogged about by the Portland Press Herald.

Lawless, after being confronted by local Green Independent party supporters about the Daughtry sign in his window, sent an email to his customers in an effort to fend off what he said was a threat of a boycott against his bookstore.

“Recently we have had several calls, visits and emails from Green Party members concerned that we have a sign in our bookstore window supporting the Democratic candidate for the state Legislature from Brunswick, and not the Green candidate,” reads Lawless’ email. “It has been suggested that this will have a negative impact on our business, but so far we have survived Bookland, Borders and Amazon, so a Green boycott is not a threat, just a disappointment.”

Lawless, a well-known poet and outspoken progressive activist, said Thursday that he has been a registered Green Independent in the past and continues to support the party’s ideals, but in this election chose to support Daughtry, who he has known for years. As a result, according to Lawless, one local Green came into the store and “exploded” at Lawless’ wife and the 32-year-old store’s co-owner, Beth Leonard. Another suggested the store would suffer financially.

“Beth and I think of the Greens as our friends and our allies, but we just decided to support someone else in this election,” said Lawless. “It’s like they’re bullying us. They’re talking about a boycott. The implied loss of financial gain sort of implies that they’ll stop shopping here.”

Herschel Sternlieb, who Lawless said is the person who implied a boycott, said the whole issue is “a tempest in a teapot” and that he never intended for anyone to boycott Gulf of Maine Books.

Horch said some of his supporters at a campaign meeting Monday said they were upset by Lawless, who they said had previously told them he wouldn’t post any campaign signs in his store. Horsch said he understood that some of them might contact Lawless, but told them he didn’t want to make a public issue out of it.

This is the second time Horch has ended up in the news because of who does and doesn’t support him. Last week, the chairman of the Brunswick Republican Committee, Jonathan Crimmins, was criticized for having a sign supporting Horch in his yard. Crimmins said the sign belongs to his wife.

Lawless, who also has signs in the window for Barack Obama and state Democratic Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, said flying political colors at his bookstore is something he won’t change.

“Usually it’s the customers complaining that we aren’t fair and balanced,” said Lawless. “Usually they’re complaining that we don’t carry a book by one of the Fox News commentators. The store is our store. We don’t have any books about the New York Yankees, either.”

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