December 15, 2018
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LePage v. Bernie Sanders? Partisan rancor raises stakes in Lewiston’s mayoral race

This snowy Tuesday brings the last high-profile Maine election of 2017 in Lewiston, where Democrat Ben Chin and Republican Shane Bouchard are in a runoff for the city’s open mayoral seat that could be a tiny preview of races to come next year.

A Chin win would put the city under firm Democratic control; a Bouchard win would continue a recent and partial Republican trend. Lewiston is a historic Democratic stronghold and still looks that way on paper, with 6,100 more registered Democrats than Republicans. But Gov. Paul LePage won his home city in 2010 and 20,14 and Mayor Robert Macdonald has used similar messaging around welfare en route to his three victories.

If Chin wins, he would have a majority-Democratic city council and join an all-Democratic legislative delegation. But he and his employer, the progressive Maine People’s Alliance, are unpopular in many parts of the city and Bouchard could win tonight just like Macdonald beat Chin in 2015.

Maine’s two biggest political parties are involved and the race has attracted big-name endorsements. The Maine Republican Party and Maine Democratic Party have been doing organizing work in Lewiston.

Democrats spent $2,200 on Chin’s behalf between the November election and Nov. 28. Meanwhile, Bouchard got a Monday endorsement from U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, following an endorsement from LePage last week. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the runner-up for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, cut an endorsement video for Chin on Friday.

Lewiston residents have requested more absentee ballots this year than in 2015, but the predicted snow may keep voters home. City Clerk Kathy Montejo said Lewiston has issued more than 3,100 absentee ballots, just ahead of the 2015 runoff total in an election that saw strong 32 percent turnout.

On Monday, WMTW reported that the city was expecting a lower overall showing of 6,000 voters. However, 8 inches of snow are also expected there today. Chin’s campaign is arranging free taxi rides to the polling place at Longley Elementary School on Tuesday, while Bouchard told WMTW that he has a crew of volunteers giving rides.

Polls opened at 8 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. with final results expected by 10:30 p.m.

For a roundup of today’s Maine political news, click here for the Daily Brief. Click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings.

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