A Mount Desert Island man who has fellow Democrats concerned over Facebook postings promoting blog posts titled “F*** Bar Harbor Business Owners” and “America Always Sucked: Happy 4th of July!” is the only candidate for a Hancock County Commission seat whose name will be on any of next week’s primary ballots.
Ian J. Schwartz, who lives in Mount Desert, ran unsuccessfully in the 2018 Democratic state Senate primary against incumbent Louis Luchini, and again is running for office as a Democrat for a four-year term as county commissioner. No candidates are listed on Republican primary ballots in towns in the commission district, which include all those on MDI as well as Cranberry Isles, Franklin, Frenchboro, Hancock, Lamoine, Swan’s Island and Trenton.
There are other MDI residents who have publicly declared their intent to run for the seat as write-in candidates, however.
One of them, former Bar Harbor town councilor Paul Paradis, is an official write-in candidate in the Republican primary and is expected to have his name appear on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.
The other is Bar Harbor resident Jill Weber, a registered Democrat who said she decided to throw her hat into the ring when she was “no longer willing to accept the declared Democratic candidate” for the commissioner seat.
Weber has publicly announced that she is running for the seat, despite the fact that she has not qualified for the primary as an official write-in candidate, which means write-in votes for her on July 14 will not be counted, according to state elections officials. Even so, Weber’s nascent candidacy has garnered some support on Facebook, where users who live in the area have urged people to vote for her rather than Schwartz.
Weber declined last week to get specific about why she has decided to run against Schwartz, saying only that his approach “is not going to move anyone forward” and that she thinks she is a better candidate. Weber, who works as a consulting biologist, has served on town committees in Bar Harbor but has not previously held elected public office.
“I think I will bring a more effective approach,” Weber said.
Multiple recent attempts to contact Schwartz have been unsuccessful. He did not respond to emails sent to an address listed on his campaign’s Facebook page or to a Facebook direct message, and is not living at the Seal Harbor location listed as his home address in town voter registration records. A woman who answered the door last week at that address said she was renting it from a friend (who is listed as the owner in the town’s assessing records) and that she had never heard of Schwartz.
A spokesperson for the secretary of state’s office, which oversees elections in Maine, said Monday that the office did not have a phone number for Schwartz on file.
Schwartz, who ran unsuccessfully last year for the Mount Desert board of selectmen, has advocated for banning cruise ships from the waters around MDI and removing police from schools. On Facebook, Schwartz said he is running for county commissioner in order to “provide more funding for restorative justice, protect the county from environmental destruction, and increase worker power.”
Also, on a Facebook community page used by Hancock County residents, Schwartz has been critical of what he calls “cop apologists” and has taken flak for promoting an anonymous blog with posts titled “America Always Sucked: Happy 4th of July!,” “The Impending Total Collapse of the United States,” and “F*** Bar Harbor Business Owners,” among others.
Schwartz currently serves as one of 10 members of the county’s budget advisory committee, each of whom is elected at a caucus that each commissioner holds in his district. He is hoping to replace Antonio Blasi on the three-seat commission. Blasi, a Democrat, has opted not to seek re-election so he can challenge incumbent Republican Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham to represent Maine House District 136 in the Legislature.
Alfred Judd, chair of the Hancock County Democratic Committee, said Monday that the committee does not support or oppose Schwartz’s candidacy.
“We remain neutral in primaries and support the election of Democrats in general elections,” Judd said.
As for her campaign plans, Weber said last week that she plans to start collecting signatures after the July 14 primary so she can be an official write-in candidate in November, though she would have to run without any party support. Weber missed the June 1 deadline set by the secretary of state’s office for getting her name on the Nov. 3 general election ballot as a non-party candidate.
If she gathers at least 100 signatures from voters in the district and submits them to state election officials by Sept. 4, she can keep her Democratic Party affiliation and run as an official write-in candidate for the general election, according to Kristen Muszynski, spokesperson for the secretary of state’s office.
Paradis is running unopposed as a write-in candidate for the Republican nomination, so if he gets at least 100 votes in the July 14 Republican primary, he will have his name listed on the Nov. 3 ballot as the GOP candidate for the commission seat.
Paradis said Monday that he was asked to run for the seat by other area Republicans, whom he did not specify. He declined to cite any specific concerns, but said Schwartz’s candidacy was one reason he decided to run. It was too late for him to make the deadline for getting his name on the primary ballot, but he was able to beat the deadline for qualifying as an official write-in candidate, which was April 10.
Paradis, a Bar Harbor hardware store owner and private pilot who frequently uses the county-owned airport in Trenton, said his background and prior political experience makes him well-suited to serve on the commission.
“I think I can provide a balanced approach,” Paradis said. “I think I can do a good job.”