Maine Mayoral Candidate Ben Chin Targeted With Racist Attack Ads

By Sameer Rao Oct 21, 2015

An Asian-American mayoral candidate in Lewiston, Maine, is being targeted with racist signs. 

Ben Chin, the Democratic candidate in Lewiston’s mayoral race, was the intended target of two signs put up on private buildings this weekend that use communism-affiliated imagery and a caricature of an Asian man. The signs read, "DON’T VOTE FOR HO CHI CHIN" and "VOTE FOR MORE JOBS NOT MORE WELFARE"—obvious allusions to both Chin’s race and progressive political views: 

Joe Dunne, who owns the two buildings, posted the signs over the weekend. He was forced to removed one of them due to tenant complaints. Dunne was named one of Lewiston’s worst landlords in a report from the Maine People’s Alliance, an advocacy group for which Chin serves as political director (and which, in the interest of full disclosure, has done organizing training with Race Forward, the organization that publishes Colorlines). Dunne told the local Lewiston-Auburn Sun Journal that the signs were retaliatory:

"My point is that the guy is out there slamming me all over the place, putting pamphlets in people’s doors calling me a corporate slumlord, putting my home address out there and going into the schools to tell my daughter her parents are slumlords," Dunne said. "He’s been kind of abusive to me, so I figured I’d fight back a little bit."

Chin responded to the signs in a statement to the Maine Beacon, saying that he won’t be distracted by the signs or any other moves to stop his campaign’s momentum: 

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.

The "Macdonald" to whom he’s referring is the city’s current Republican mayor, Robert Macdonald, his opponent in the race. Macdonald denied responsibility, saying that he learned about the signs a week before they went up and asked that they not be posted, according to the Sun Journal:

"I asked them, ‘Please don’t do this,’ and told them it is only going to come back on me and people are going to think I’m responsible for it and I am not, " Macdonald said. "The person responsible for that is also supporting another candidate and it’s not me."

Macdonald has a history of racist sentiment attached to his name. Macdonald made comments in 2012 saying that Somali immigrants (who form a significant community in Lewiston) should "leave [their] culture at the door," among other inflammatory statements that lead the Maine People’s Alliance to call for his resignation.

The signs prompted demonstrations in support of Chin, the posting of Chin-supporting signs on a building Dunne owns and condemnation from several Maine legislators. 

(H/t Talking Points Memo, Lewiston-Auburn Sun Journal, Maine Beacon)