A former Republican state lawmaker who has been at the center of two court cases challenging the validity of signatures gathered for ballot referendums is running for the Maine Senate in York County.

Stavros Mendros, who once represented Lewiston in the House of Representatives and has long been involved in signature gathering for ballot question campaigns – including those aimed at legalizing marijuana and failed attempts to bring casinos to Lewiston and York County – confirmed he would be on the ballot in November as the Republican challenger to Sen. Justin Chenette, D-Saco.

“My opponent is the epitome of what’s wrong with politics with a long history as a shady political operative profiting off casino referendums,” Chenette said in a prepared statement. “His unethical actions have led to multiple fines from the Maine ethics commission for violating campaign finance laws, a guilty plea for misusing his position as a notary public, and was recently ousted as the Androscoggin County GOP chair because of missing funds. I’m running to clean up the system by strengthening ethics while my opponent is running to continue profiting off playing the game.”

Mendros, via a direct message on Facebook, confirmed he was now living in the York County town of Hollis and would be running against Chenette after being named as a replacement candidate by the York County Republican Party. He rebutted Chenette’s claims of impropriety.

“This is the kind of disgusting personal attacks he used against Barry Hobbins two years ago and exactly why I am running,” Mendros said. “Politics is about an exchange of ideas, not slandering and bullying people who dare to disagree. This attack exemplifies everything that is wrong with politics and why people stay away. I have a long history of being attacked by bullies when I speak truth to power.”

Chenette was elected to the Senate in 2016 after he beat Rep. Barry Hobbins, a Saco attorney who now serves as the state’s public advocate for utility customers, in a Democratic primary in June of that year.

Mendros also was linked to Max Linn’s failed attempt to become a candidate for the U.S. Senate race as a Republican challenging incumbent Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats. Linn’s campaign was disqualified after Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap determined that Linn did not have enough valid voter signatures to make the primary ballot in June. Among other issues, signatures of some dead voters had appeared on Linn’s petitions.

In his statement, Mendros admits paying a fine for misusing his notary license and acknowledges he was removed from his post as chairman of the Androscoggin County Republican Committee in 2015 after he discovered funds missing from the committee’s account and reported it to the local district attorney’s office.

“As the story listed (by Chenette) shows, I was voted out as Androscoggin Republican chair because I reported the embezzlement to the Democrat (district attorney) and demanded an investigation while the rest of the committee wanted to cover it up,” Mendros said. “As soon as I was gone as chair they voted to ask the district attorney to drop the investigation. If I had anything to hide I certainly would not have demanded an investigation.”

Mendros also was named in a report involving the arrest of a Lewiston woman in Kennebunk in March 2017, the Sun Journal reported. He was driving a car on the Maine Turnpike that was stopped by the Maine State Police at 2:30 a.m. Police arrested his passenger, Elizabeth Lothrop, and charged her with furnishing scheduled drugs and violating conditions of release from an earlier drug-trafficking arrest. Mendros was not charged.

He later told the newspaper he was driving for Uber that night and knew Lothrop because of a book he was writing about heroin addiction, saying he had agreed to give her a ride for $100 and gas money.

“One minute I’m in cuffs and had no idea what was happening, then they were letting me out and telling me to drive safe,” Mendros said at the time. “I’m not even sure what happened it was so surreal.”

Mendros’ campaign registered Thursday with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, indicating he intends to seek public campaign financing under the Maine Clean Election Act. Nina McLauglin, a spokeswoman for the Maine Republican Party, confirmed Monday that Mendros was the party’s candidate for the York Senate seat.

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 713-6720 or at:

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Correction: This story was updated at 12 p.m. Tuesday July 24, 2018, to correct the seat Barry Hobbins held in 2016.