BELFAST, Maine — Political newcomer Brenda Bonneville will fill a void on Belfast City Council after defeating Ridgely Fuller on Tuesday night for the open Ward 3 seat. The vote was 961 to 543, according to the unofficial tally.
“It’s been a very interesting experience, and I’m honored for the support and the chance to talk to so many people in this community,” said Bonneville, 55, who owns Ambiance, a vintage lamp and antique shop in downtown Belfast. “Now it’s time to get to work.”
Bonneville celebrated the win with a victory party at Rollie’s Bar & Grill.
Although it was the only contested local race on the ballot, voter turnout in the midcoast city was higher than usual in an off-year election. At least 1,500 people, or about 27 percent, of Belfast’s registered voters turned out.
“It’s been steady,” Amy Flood, the Belfast city clerk, said in the early afternoon from the Crosby Center, where residents in Wards 1-4 cast their votes.
The high voter turnout may be the result of a heightened interest in local politics over the past couple of years, fueled largely by outgoing Mayor Samantha Paradis’ two-year term that was marked by identity politics and inter-council divisiveness. Eric Sanders, a city councilor who works for Bank of America, was elected the new mayor after winning an uncontested race.
Sanders told the BDN he aims to be a “low-key” mayor who stays out of the news.
Another reason for the large turnout may have been Nordic Aquafarms’ proposal to build a large land-based salmon farm in the city, with some in the community treating the council race as something of a referendum on the proposal.
Fuller previously had been an outspoken opponent to Nordic’s plan, while Bonneville has said she supports it. The project has been controversial since it was first announced in 2018, although councilors are not likely to be asked to significantly weigh in on the proposal at this point.
Belfast councilor Neal Harkness said Tuesday afternoon that the contested council race was “more obscurely” about the fish farm than last year’s elections had been.
“With the tension between the mayor and the council and with Nordic, and with other things like housing and Tractor Supply, I think right now people are a little more tuned in to local politics than they normally are,” Harkness said.