WHAT WE KNOW:
On June 10th, 163 Saco residents voted in the Republican Primary in my district, district 15. 131 of which voted for my opponent. (nearly 300 total between both sides of Saco). On July 14th, my Republican opponent Frederick Fortier withdrew from the race.
He was what's called a placeholder candidate. When individuals put their name down to secure a spot on the ballot, win the primary, withdraw from the race, and then their party can select whoever they want to replace them at a locally held caucus.
Deadline for replacement candidates was Monday July 28th. A local party caucus is supposed to be held to select the candidate to submit to the Secretary of State prior to the deadline.
WHAT WE DON'T KNOW
When the Saco Republican Committee held their caucus, what outlets did they use to advertise the caucus, and how many voters participated in set caucus.
Nothing was posted on the Saco Republican Committee website about the caucus. Nothing was posted to the Saco Republican Committee Facebook page about the caucus. And from what I could find in our local papers, nothing was mentioned about when or where the caucus was being held in the newspapers.
WHY I QUESTION THE PROCESS
Here is a snippet from the Journal Tribune article on 7/30 that raises some major concerns about the selection of both my opponent and Rep. Barry Hobbins opponent (who will be dropping out soon):
Warren called the Journal Tribune office early Tuesday morning in response to an email seeking comment on her decision to run – her name appears with others on the secretary of state’s office list of replacement candidates – and at that time, said she wasn’t running. She later said she’d been a placeholder candidate, and in a further telephone conversation, she said her decision to run had been made in the spur of the moment.
She was nominated in a caucus that took place somewhere in Saco – documents don’t say where – at 10:30 a.m. Monday. Lingley, a public affairs consultant with an Augusta firm who has also worked in previous Republican campaigns, did not return a telephone call seeking comment, and the signature of the caucus chairman that day could not be discerned with absolute certainty.
As for Christenbury, he said he had originally been a placeholder candidate, but had began to consider making a serious bid for the spot. He realized, he said last week, that he couldn’t afford to serve, were he to be elected, so he withdrew.
Carol Patterson, who is running against incumbent Democrat Justin Chenette in House District 15, is chairman of the Saco Republican City Committee. She said she doesn’t believe she’s met Warren, and was certain she hadn’t attended GOP city committee meetings at least within the past two years; lists of those who attend meetings with their contact information are kept to keep attendees up to date on events and happenings, she said. Patterson, who was nominated as a candidate for District 15 a week ago, said she didn’t know about Monday’s caucus.
“They were having lots of caucuses to replace and find new candidates. I was not aware of this one,” she said.
Robert Zitzow of the York County Republican Committee has chaired a number of caucuses over the years and keeps in touch with the municipal committees. While the county committee conducts caucuses to nominate replacement candidates for the Senate – as it did when David Woodsome was selected as the GOP candidate in Senate District 33 – caucuses to replace House candidates are held at the town or city committee level, he explained.
“I can’t imagine a town or city committee running a caucus without the chairman present or without the express knowledge of the chairman,” he said.
WHY THIS MATTERS
It matters because you have a right to know. The nearly 300 Republicans who cast their ballot in the Primary Election deserve to know how their nominee was selected. It appears it wasn't done in the most Democratic way with a complete lack of transparency and accountability. I wonder how many who voted in the Primary actually were notified about the caucus and how many actually participated in the caucus.
The fact that the chair of the Saco Republican Committee didn't even know about how the candidate poised to run against Barry Hobbins was selected or even who she was, raises major red flags. The fact that the chair was selected as my opponent without major notification to the public, is another major red flag. I don't understand how hard it is to just keep the public informed, to promote a democratic process where citizens feel empowered to participate. If people don't even know what is taking place, how do you expect to have active citizenship. Parties should not have more power than the voice and will of the people.
I'm looking for answers and I think our community is owed some answers as well.
(Full Journal Tribune article here http://www.journaltribune.com/news/local_stories/article_633ce1ac-17f7-11e4-9c94-0019bb2963f4.html)
Rep. Justin Chenette
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