September 29, 2022

Rockland Council Race Attracts Political Party Involvement Statewide – Knox County VillageSoup

ROCKLAND — The nonpartisan race for a single Rockland City Council seat has drawn interest from one of the state’s political parties.

The political affiliation of Rockland City Council candidates is not listed on the ballot, and parties do not nominate candidates. People vote in Rockland by collecting 100 signatures from registered voters in Rockland.

That hasn’t stopped the Maine Republican Party and Knox County Republicans from using social media to call for volunteers to support candidate Nicole Kalloch, however.

Kalloch and incumbent Councilor Ben Dorr are vying for a three-year seat on city council. The election is Nov. 2, but voting has already begun with mail-in ballots. By Monday October 25, 350 people had voted by post.

Kalloch is registered as a Republican, while Dorr is a Democrat.

“While there aren’t millions of dollars spent on television ads, there is an incredibly critical election coming up Nov. 2 in the city,” said an Oct. 12 email from the Republican Party. state to local Republicans. “I wanted to let you know that our local Republican candidate, Nicole Kalloch, is running for mayor.”

Local Democrats Pinny Beebe-Center, Representative Valli Geiger and Senator David Miramant all wrote letters to the editor supporting Dorr.

Also on October 12, Paula Sutton posted on the Knox County Republican Facebook page that volunteers were needed to do a literature drop for Kalloch. After the Courier-Gazette mentioned the message in the newspaper, Sutton warned members in another post on the Knox County Republican Facebook page.

“Quick reminder, this group may be private, but spies are reporting to liberal media hack Steve Betts. Move wisely,” Sutton said in the Oct. 17 post.

The Knox County Republican Facebook page is private and only those authorized by administrators can view posts. The page has 589 members. Sutton is an administrator of the page even though she resides in Florida.

Sutton is a former state representative from Warren. She lost a re-election bid in 2018 when she was beaten by independent William Pluecker by a total of 2,249 to 1,891. Her loss came after her role became public in a newspaper advertisement and fliers attacking Democratic lawmakers — including Democratic Rockland State Representative Anne “Pinny” Beebe-Center. The ad and fliers claimed that lawmakers had refused to protect young girls from genital mutilation by opposing a bill that specifically banned the procedure in Maine. Opponents of the bill have pointed out that such procedures are already illegal based on state and federal laws. The ad and posting she funded showed a razor blade with a screaming baby and a woman wearing clothes often worn by Somali women.

On the Democratic side, when asked if the Democratic Party is taking a stand in the City Council race, Democratic Knox County Chairman Zachery Annis said, “TKnox County Democrats don’t typically do sponsorship in nonpartisan municipal races, but I know many of our volunteers support Ben’s campaign. It is not difficult to understand why. As a small business owner, Ben has a great perspective on the issues facing Rockland. And frankly, he’s been a thoughtful and effective councilman,” Annis said.

He said he didn’t know why Republicans were involved in the nonpartisan race.

“I’m afraid this is part of an unfortunate trend I’ve heard of where the GOP in Maine is using outside money and resources to back radical right-wing candidates for city council,” Annis said.

Kalloch did not respond to an email Sunday about the Republican Party’s role in his campaign.

Dorr said he contacted the county Democratic Party, but as of Sunday had not heard from the party.

The Knox County Democratic Facebook page did not post any posts about the council race. The Democratic page, with 737 members, is public.

Rockland has 5,583 registered voters. Turnout in the last off-year election — one in which there is no race for governor or president — in 2019 saw 1,167 ballots cast. This means that if turnout were the same this year, a candidate could win with as few as 584 votes.

Dorr was the top voter in 2018 when he received 1,244 votes in a three-for-one race, while the second-place candidate received 711 and third-place, 652.

Of the 5,583 registered voters in Rockland, 2,343 are Democrats; 1,720 are not registered with any party; 1,340 are registered with the Republican Party; and one person is registered as a libertarian.

All five current city council members were registered Democrats. Councilor Louise MacLellan Ruf changed her subscription on Tuesday, October 26 to unsubscribe.

The last registered Republican to serve on the City Council was William Clayton, last elected in 2014.

Rockland voters have not supported a Republican presidential candidate since 1988, when Vice President George W. Bush ran for president against Democrat Michael Dukakis. Rockland has only backed Democratic candidates for governor, U.S. Senate, U.S. Representatives and state lawmakers in the last election.

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