As of this writing, we have 199 hours, four minutes and 54 seconds to go before the 2015 Biddeford Municipal Elections are over.
Nearly 200 hours before we know the results; nearly two hundred more hours of speculation about what will happen when the polls close.
We are down to the wire, with a little more than a week to go, and I can’t wait for it to be over.
Historically, fewer than 50 percent of Biddeford voters cast ballots in the municipal elections. The low point was two years ago when little more than 30 percent of registered voters opted to cast ballots.
The results of this year’s elections depend on how many people vote.
Just like the old days, slates of council and school committee members have lined up behind the two mayoral candidates. And this year, more than any other I can remember, has been especially vicious and vitriolic. You can blame the advent of social media if you want, but the sheer hatred and demagoguery goes well beyond the plethora of Facebook pages that have been created and then quickly deleted.
Most of these Facebook pages have been set up anonymously with the author unknown. When anyone attempts to post a contrary comment or different opinion, such posts are quickly deleted. These actions come from those who claim “transparency” and “accountability” is missing in local government. Yeah, right.
I have been covering Biddeford politics for nearly two decades, and I cannot remember a more nasty, vicious campaign cycle, replete with innuendo, rhetoric and half-truths, most of which is directed at Mayor Alan Casavant and some of which is directed at me.
Make no mistake: The driving force behind this campaign of hate and loathing is a man who has been working for several months to be a disruptor; a narcissistic malcontent with a penchant for slinging mud and hell-bent on destroying anyone who has the temerity to disagree with him.
The good news?
But there is some good news. Over the past few days, more and more community leaders (not elected officials) have been speaking up, calling out the anonymous coward whose sole purpose is to divide and spread hatred.
People like Joe LeBlond, a driving organizer of the city’s LaKermesse Festival; and Kenneth Farley, a past president of the Biddeford-Saco Rotary Club, have demonstrated courage and conviction in calling out this school-yard behavior, which is spurred on by a couple dozen of other malcontents.
I am increasingly optimistic that the voters of Biddeford will see through this cloud of smoke and mirrors. A vast majority of residents have had enough of the school-yard games.
A call for leadership
And I have more good news: the city’s two mayoral candidates (and most of the city council candidates) have stayed above the fray. Alan Casavant is hoping for a third term; and Daniel Parenteau is challenging him in the most professional manner. Parenteau has reached out to me privately to share his disgust and disdain for what some of his supporters have said and done to Casavant and to my family.
My only wish is that Parenteau would show real leadership and publicly admonish the tactics used by some of his supporters.
Where it gets personal
As I have previously detailed on these pages, the same narcissistic, juvenile prankster has gone after me and my family. He has threatened us with an “iron-clad” civil lawsuit; he has tried to get my wife fired from her job; he has made baseless, derogatory remarks about my son with fabricated tales of criminal activity. This man (and I use the term loosely) is a venomous leech with no moral compass or sense or self-control. This has been going for months. Read more here
You would think my family would retreat; that we would be intimidated or shy away from the public arena. Not quite.
My wife decided that the city needed other voices to step forward in this year’s election cycle. She asked my opinion about running for a seat on the city council; and I advised her against the idea.
“Why would you want to do that?” I asked. “We don’t need the aggravation. Serving on the council is an incredible time commitment. There is no money, no glory and it is a thankless job that only opens you to criticism. There are better uses for your time,” I reasoned.
But Laura was convinced, and called me later in the day to inform me that she had taken out nomination papers.
At that point, I was all in. I was going to support my wife’s decision 110 percent. I am a professional campaign consultant. I was suddenly in it to win it; and I watched my wife begin her campaign. She collected more signatures than she needed; she began raising money, designed her campaign signs and set up social media accounts. My advice was more often rebuked than accepted.
If there is one thing you should know about my wife, she is fiercely independent (and I would say stubborn). She began visiting various neighborhoods across the city, trekking alone and knocking on doors to meet residents and explain her campaign. She has been fearless and relentless.
It should be noted here that Laura’s four opponents (Marc Lessard, Doris McAuliffe, Joanne Twomey and Melissa Bednarowski) have run clean, honorable campaigns. There have been no smear tactics, just differences of opinion. The way it should be.
Two different perspectives
So, in 200 hours or so it will all be over. Laura is prepared and ready for a win or a loss. Regardless of the outcome, she is going to celebrate and breathe a sigh of relief. Although she is competitive, she is also relaxed and confident; comfortable in her own skin.
Me? Not so much. I am on pins and needles. I am fully vested in the outcome, but not just for Laura’s race: for all the races. I want to win. It’s part ego, and it’s part my competitive nature. I can admit that I don’t think I will handle a loss as graciously as Laura would in that event.
I want to win as a way to show the world that smear tactics and demagoguery don’t work.
I want to see Laura win because she is my wife. I want to see others win because they are my friends. I am tired of the innuendo, the hatred and the distortions by those (not most of the candidates) who have been invested in Biddeford’s future for less than 180 days.
I applaud Joe Leblond, Kenneth Farley and all the others who have taken a leadership position on social media and elsewhere.
Biddeford has many good leaders. It’s time for them to step up, too.
200 more hours; and I can’t wait for it to be over.