Yesterday, Lewiston Mayor Robert Macdonald won a decisive third term in a runoff election against challenger Ben Chin.
The final tally had Macdonald with 53% of the vote compared to Chin’s 47%. In November’s election, Chin outpolled Macdonald in a five-person field with 44%—just shy of avoiding a runoff election.
Lewiston’s campaign season has been notable both for the disparity in campaign spending and for racial incidents that garnered national headlines.
On paper, Macdonald faced an uphill battle. Democrats far outregister Republicans in Lewiston, which would seem to give Chin, a progressive activist with the Maine People’s Alliance (MPA), an edge. Furthermore, Chin’s campaign raised almost $100,000 for his war chest, and put the full force of his employer, the MPA, behind his candidacy. Macdonald, on the other hand, raised only $5,800, and actually stopped accepting donations after receiving that amount.
“These results demonstrate that a smart approach and speaking to core issues of concern for voters far outweigh voter registration. Democrats have painted themselves into a corner with positions that only speak to a narrow extreme,” said Maine GOP Chairman Rick Bennett in a press release. “Our political machine is prepared to keep gaining ground.”
Macdonald’s victory, however, does not necessarily mean that he’ll be able to enact a conservative policy agenda in Lewistion.
In a Facebook statement made after the results were announced, Chin made it clear that he would continue pursuing his policy positions despite the loss. “[W]e aren’t going anywhere,” said Chin. “We are going to back up the city council. We are going to pass referenda to raise minimum wage and tax the rich to fully fund our schools. Everything that we’ve accomplished so far, just makes those victories all the more likely.”
Although Chin lost the mayoral campaign, MPA backed candidates won a number of seats on the city council in November. In fact, a majority of the new city council actually endorsed Chin in the runoff election. It is the city council, now packed with Chin’s allies, who will set the agenda for the most part.
“The mayor cuts ribbons,” Macdonald stated in a November debate. “Represents the city at some places, and runs the (City Council) meetings. That’s all I can do.”
Macdonald may have pulled off a surprising victory on Tuesday, but it is far from clear whose policies will prevail in Lewiston.