Racist signs target mayoral candidate Ben Chin in Lewiston
Signs attacking Lewiston mayoral candidate Ben Chin with a racist Asian caricature and communist imagery have appeared on at least two buildings in downtown Lewiston.
It’s not clear who installed the signs as they don’t include any legal disclaimers, but both buildings are owned and managed by backers of incumbent Mayor Bob Macdonald.
“The future of Lewiston is too important to be sidetracked by filth like this. Macdonald’s friends can plaster racist caricatures over every building in town; it will only make me fight harder to bring people together to revitalize Lewiston and improve our city’s reputation,” said Chin, who faces Macdonald an three other candidates in the election on November 3rd.
The signs, which refer to Ben as “Ho Chi Chin,” are the latest in a series of racially-tinged attacks on Chin. Last week, the Maine Republican party launched a Tumblr blog and Facebook page with a photo of Chin superimposed over an unrelated photograph of black demonstrators and fires set during a conflict with police in Oakland, California.
According to documents filed with the Androscoggin County Registry of Deeds, both of the buildings where the signs have appeared are owned and operated by Normand and Constance Rousseau and Joseph Dunne. Normand Rousseau is a former City Councilor and one of Mayor Macdonald’s largest donors in his 2011 and 2013 races. Dunne is a property manager with a long list of shell corporations and one of the worst histories of code violations and tenant abuses in Lewiston. Last month, Macdonald defended Dunne in a newspaper column, calling him “a big-hearted landlord.”
Throughout his campaign so far, Chin has referred to Dunne and a small group of other problematic property owners as “corporate slumlords” who “use legal and financial structures to shield them from liability, taxes and, apparently, moral decency.”
Chin’s campaign platform includes plans to crack down on the abuses of corporate slumlords and encourage owner-occupied properties in Lewiston’s downtown.
Mayor Macdonald has a history of making racially controversial remarks. In 2012, he garnered national attention for a series of comments targeted at immigrants to Lewiston, including telling Somalis to “leave your culture at the door” and complaining that “white do-gooders” were prompting Somali women to be less “submissive.”
By this morning, the anti-Chin sign on a residential building on Pine street had been joined by hand-made signs in a nearby window, presumable placed there by tenants, expressing their support for Chin’s campaign.
While Chin seems to present the greatest threat to Macdonald’s re-election, he still faces an uphill battle to defeat the two-term incumbent. The race may be further complicated by Lewiston’s mayoral election process, which mandates a run-off election if no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote.
According to Chin campaign manager Gen Lysen, the best way those who find these attacks offensive to express their support is to make a contribution to the campaign.
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