WESTBROOK – It wasn’t quite 9 p.m. Tuesday when the upstairs banquet room of Profenno’s Bar & Grill on Main Street in Westbrook exploded with applause. Unofficial election results indicated Democrat Colleen Hilton would serve a third term as Westbrook’s mayor.

Hilton won the city’s vote in all five wards, beating a strong challenge from James Tranchemontagne. The unofficial results tallied gave Hilton 1,872 citywide, with Tranchemontagne receiving 1,228, and Republican candidate Ernest Porell, 422.

The election’s only surprise came as veteran Democratic legislator Ann E. Peoples, the House representative for District 125, narrowly lost her Ward 4 City Council bid to unenrolled candidate Gary Rairdon. “When I was out campaigning, I went door to door and took my time to really listen to the concerns of our ward,” Rairdon said Wednesday. “I think that my message that I will listen, give Ward 4 a voice on the council and be approachable, resonated.”

As results were coming in, Hilton, her family, and the city’s other Democratic candidates, were enjoying food provided by Profenno’s while waiting anxiously for returns. A large projection screen beamed results on the wall, the room erupted, and Hilton addressed her supporters.

Hilton said that she’s excited for the upcoming term, which now runs for three years instead of two after city charter changes passed last year.

“I’m excited because there are some really cool projects in the pipeline,” she said. “They can really transform this community, and I think it’s important that I be there to see them through.”

While Hilton won all five wards, Tranchemontagne proved tough. In Ward 4, Hilton outlasted Tranchemontagne, 252 to 214.

Democratic City Councilor Michael Foley, who ran unopposed in Tuesday’s election for a three-year council seat, said Tuesday that there was never a doubt in his mind that Hilton would be re-elected.

“Some of the wards were close, but we were confident,” he said.

Just after 9:15p.m., at his Frog and Turtle restaurant, James Tranchemontagne addressed supporters, who applauded his strong effort. While conceding defeat in the election, Tranchemontagne said the campaign inspired Westbrook residents “to put the ‘We’ back in Westbrook.”

“Between Porell and I, she only won by about 200 votes,” he said. “It should be a day that inspires us to keep going out there, keep listening, and get more involved.”

On Wednesday morning, Porell was seated at Guidi’s Diner on Main Street, enjoying a hearty breakfast. He said that he’s disappointed in the city, and sees the election as “a referendum on Westbrook,” as well.

“It’s causing me to think more about why I keep investing in property here,” he said. “There’s a bowling ball coming down the lane, and it has taxes written all over it.”

Lynda Adams, Westbrook’s city clerk, said Tuesday voter turnout was smaller than for the municipal election two years ago, which provided similar races for mayor, City Council and School Committee seats and also had state referendums on casinos.

“In the last municipal candidate election we had over 800 absentee ballots cast and this election we had approximately 450, which is usually an indicator as to how the turnout will be,” she said.

During their addresses Tuesday night, both Hilton and Tranchemontagne commented on the high number of uncontested races, and called for more involvement in local issues.

“Unfortunately, we encountered a ballot that was only one-third full of opposing views,” Tranchemontagne said. “I’ve felt an underlying theme of frustration in this city, and if you’re frustrated, then you have the right and obligation to step up and make the change.”

Hilton said that the race was the most personal she had encountered. According to Hilton and Foley, voters were coming into Ward 5 on Tuesday reporting that they had been called and told not to vote for Hilton because she is bringing a low-income housing project to the former Prides Corner Elementary School. According to Hilton, both Tranchemontagne and Porell said they weren’t behind the calls.

“It was disheartening to experience so many things being said that are not true,” she said. “When you look at how many races were uncontested, I think some of that speaks to what candidates have to endure, even locally, to serve.”

The city is working with a developer on a plan to bring unsubsidized, market-rate housing to Prides Corner.

Also on Tuesday, Westbrook voters approved all five of the state referendum bond issues, re-elected two city councilors, and elected a new councilor, Gary Rairdon, who will fill Dotty Aube’s seat. In 2011, Rairdon lost to Aube by 37 votes.

The council’s only Republican, John O’Hara, won re-election for a two-year City Council at-large seat, beating opponent Veronica Bates, a Democrat, 1,829 to 1,469.

In Ward 2, Democrat Victor Chau beat Republican Matt Maloney 426 to 177.

In Ward 4, Gary Rairdon defeated Peoples 272 to 224, with Susan Rossignol, a Republican, earning 63 votes.

The uncontested council races all featured incumbent Democrats. Michael Foley won the at-large seat, Brendan Rielly won Ward 1, Paul Emery won Ward 3, and Michael Sanphy won Ward 5. On the school board, Suzanne Joyce, Noreen Poitras and Michael Popovic won their uncontested races.

Westbrook approved the state referendum bond issues as follows: Question 1 passed 2,211 to 1,308; Question 2 was approved 2,260 to 1,266; Question 3 passed 2,489 to 1,038; Question 4 was approved 1,938 to 1,566, and Question 5 passed 2,406 to 1,139.

Colleen Hilton, second from left, addresses supporters at Profenno’s Bar & Grill Tuesday night after winning a third term as mayor of Westbrook.Republican candidate Ernest Porell talks about his mayoral defeat while enjoying breakfast at Guidi’s Diner on Main Street Wednesday morning. Porell says he sees the election as “a referendum on Westbrook,” and is worried that the next three years will only yield more taxes, and less prosperity for the city.James Tranchemontagne, the independent candidate for Westbrook mayor, speaks to supporters in a concession speech Tuesday night at his restaurant, the Frog and Turtle. While Tranchemontagne lost, he said he has inspired Westbrook residents to get more involved in their city.


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