- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Sep. 21—AUBURN — Two people have submitted paperwork to run write-in campaigns against City Councilor Leroy Walker, whose racist remarks sparked backlash earlier this month.
Kathy Shaw and Joe DeMotta will run write-in campaigns for Walker's seat after the longtime councilor used racist comments while discussing a proposal to name a footbridge for former Mayor John Jenkins.
Walker has since apologized and dropped off his committee appointments, but did not resign despite several public calls to do so. He is running unopposed for a sixth term in the New Auburn ward.
Shaw confirmed Monday that she had filed a candidate registration for a write-in campaign. She said she has "no animosity" toward Walker, but believes the residents of Ward 5 "deserve a choice."
"I've felt for a long time that one-candidate races are not fair to the citizens of our city and our ward," she said. "Whether I win or lose, it's more important to me that people have the opportunity to choose."
Shaw operates Valley View Farm on Sopers Mill Road with her husband, Stanwood "Joe" Gray. Gray ran against Mayor Jason Levesque in 2019. Shaw is also chairwoman of the Agriculture Committee and has served as coordinator for Auburn's farmers' market.
Shaw said she's worked with Walker on various committees and has enjoyed his company, but said "for whatever reason, he chose to make the comments he did, and that was his choice."
DeMotta announced his write-in candidacy over social media, stating, "New Auburn has always been a special place. I grew up on Gill street, and I now own my home in New Auburn."
According to the page, he's the student services coordinator at the University of Maine Augusta's Lewiston Center.
The write-in candidate's names will not appear on the ballot. The deadline for submitting nomination papers to appear on the Nov. 2 ballot was Aug. 19.
Walker drew national publicity after attempting to describe complaints he'd received about naming the bridge after Jenkins, specifically regarding the color of his skin.
The two cities are renaming the trestle bridge between Bonney Park in Auburn and Simard-Payne Memorial Park in memory of Jenkins, who died last year after serving as Maine's first African-American state senator. He also put in stints as mayor of both Lewiston and Auburn.
Ann Parker, Jenkins' longtime partner, spoke during Monday's City Council meeting, asking that the cities "put our focus back on honoring the legacy" of Jenkins following an unfortunate "distraction."
"I was honored to witness both City Councils — Lewiston and Auburn — vote unanimously in favor of renaming the footbridge," she said. "Unfortunately, in a short span, some words were spoken that then became a distraction. They also then became the news."
Parker said she's since met with Walker, Mayor Jason Levesque and City Manager Phil Crowell and "have expressed my feelings."
"We can't change the past and we can't undo what's been done," she said. "We can only do better in the future."
Parker pointed to Auburn's city motto, which translates to "no steps backwards."
"Let's not go backwards and forget the progress that's been made over centuries to eliminate racism from our society," she said.
The city has since issued a statement, and has pledged to form a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.
According to City Clerk Sue Clements-Dallaire, there is no requirement that a candidate declare themselves a write-in candidate, however, because Auburn has a population of at least 15,000, the city follows campaign finance laws, which stipulate that anyone campaigning as a write-in has to register as a candidate and file campaign finance reports, unless they fill out an exemption on their candidate registration.
The City Charter stipulates that any candidate whose name does not appear on the ballot must receive at least 25 valid write-in votes in order to qualify for election to that position.
Clements-Dallaire said the last time Auburn saw a write-in campaign was in 2017, when there was no candidate listed on the ballot for Ward 4 School Committee and Jenna Scrivner won the seat as a write-in, receiving 34 votes.
This year, Clarisa Perez-Armendariz has also submitted a candidate registration as a write-in for Ward 1 School Committee. No one filed nomination papers for the seat.