LEWISTON, Maine — Former Lewiston City Council President Mark Cayer beat out two competitors to win the city’s mayoral race Tuesday night, becoming the first Democrat-backed candidate to win the seat in Maine’s second-largest city in 10 years.
Cayer, a private investigator and school board member, secured the win with 54.6 percent of votes, compared to former City Councilor Tim Lajoie’s 42.5 percent and 2.9 percent for perennial candidate Charles Soule, avoiding a December runoff by winning a majority of votes.
He thanked supporters at a Democratic gathering at the Agora Event Center, but said his platform of revitalizing the city’s economy and creating a better-educated workforce won’t succeed without a collaborative approach.
“No one person is going to make these things happen,” he said. “We have to get engaged in our community. And the only way we’re going to draw out some of the negativity in this community is by all of you good people standing and being part of this.”
The campaign was relatively quiet this time around, a change from races in 2015 and 2017, which featured high-dollar, losing campaigns between progressive activist Ben Chin and conservatives that became messy proxy wars between state parties. Cayer will replace Mayor Kristen Cloutier, who took office after the March resignation of Republican Shane Bouchard.
Cayer built his campaign on changing the city’s reputation by increasing economic development and working to end generational poverty by enhancing education and job opportunities. Despite a reputation for crime, he has said the city’s struggle is no worse than the rest of Maine and has advocated for keeping those problems “in house” while promoting positive features.
He has also endorsed Lewiston’s recently adopted plan to transform downtown housing, potentially by winning with a $30 million federal grant. Cayer has advocated a collaborative approach with the city’s nonprofit and community partners, specifically around the areas of substance abuse, housing and poverty.
Elements of nastier previous campaigns still lingered, including anonymous social media pages that focused on Democrat-backed candidates in the race and Central Maine Power’s western Maine power corridor that is unpopular statewide and opposed by Lajoie but backed by the city of Lewiston and Cayer.
Groups calling themselves “Lewiston Undivided” and “Lewiston Friends of CMP” posted frequently and prompted dozens of comments on Facebook since their creation earlier this spring, appearing to feign support for Cayer and other Democratic candidates in the city in order to subvert them. Their creators have refused to disclose their identities.
Poll workers said a rainy afternoon combined with an off-election year contributed to the turnout, with all seven wards reporting influxes in the evening.
Ward 2 resident Marc Roy said he first met Cayer in his capacity as a private investigator around a year and a half ago. While Roy said he likes Cayer’s platform, what stood out to him the most about Cayer was what he saw as a collaborative approach towards government.
“Some people have this attitude of winner-take-all, us versus them mentality,” he said. “Mark is not like that — he’s collaborative, he’s inclusive.”