Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro is once again eying a statewide political position.

A year after mulling a run for governor before deciding against it, and seven months after he narrowly escaped a recall vote sparked by his social media comments toward a school shooting survivor, Isgro is among three people vying to become vice chairman of Maine’s Republican Party. One opponent says he is running because he sees Isgro as a divisive figure at a time the party needs unity.

Isgro did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday, but the Maine Republican Party’s sitting vice chairman, Ryan Lorrain, said he heard about Isgro’s candidacy for the state party position through social media and personal correspondences. Individuals are not required to announce their candidacy ahead of the state committee elections on Saturday in Augusta.

“Things can be determined day of,” Lorrain said.

Lorrain added that Isgro misled him in earlier conversations about his interest in a party leadership position.

“He had contacted me about a month ago and asked if I was going to be running (for vice chairman). At the time, I was planning on it, and he said he wasn’t going to,” Lorrain said. “Next thing I know – from other people – he was apparently running the entire time.”

The other candidates for the vice chairman’s post are Ken Fredette, a former state representative and House minority leader from Newport, and John Hiatt, the Penobscot County Treasurer and a member of the Bangor School Committee.

In an interview, Hiatt said he decided to run after learning Isgro was vying for the position.

“I think it’s important that you have someone who can try to unite all of the party,” Hiatt said.

He took particular issue with remarks Isgro has made in the past and specifically cited a tweet Isgro posted after the Parkland shootings in which he told survivor David Hogg to “eat it.”

“I don’t know (Isgro). I haven’t met the gentleman,” Hiatt said. “I can’t speak to him on a personal level, but I will say on a political and policy level that when he made the political statement in regards to the Parkland (victim), it was highly inappropriate. It was totally the wrong thing to do, at a political level but also morally. You can disagree with someone on their stance, but in my opinion, we don’t attack victims.”

Fredette said that after spending eight years in the Legislature, he has professional obligations to catch up on at his law office and wants to spend time with his family, but he is concerned about the direction the Maine Republican Party is moving in and agreed to work with former Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, who is bidding to lead the party, to bring Republicans together.

After the party suffered significant losses at the polls in November, losing its majority in the Maine Senate and its hold on the Blaine House, and having its incumbent congressman lose the 2nd District seat, he thinks the party needs a shared vision and believes he and Mason can provide it.

In response to a question about Nick Isgro’s candidacy for the vice chairmanship, Fredette pointed out that he himself has been active in the party since 1990 and that his experience, along with Mason’s experience, are what’s important to the party now. He said the party’s leaders should have experience recruiting candidates, raising money and developing the party’s political message, and that the top two positions shouldn’t be looked at as platforms for the next round of elections for the people holding those positions.

“I think the focus again has to be on how do we as a party move forward, whether it’s party leaders or federal candidates or Susan Collins. It all has to work together,” Fredette said. “Without trying to put spin on it, the results show that there were significant problems, and that’s a question I think Republicans have to face.”

Fredette said the party has to have a two-year and a four-year strategy as it moves ahead and that Republicans have to work together to accomplish their goals. To get elected at the state committee elections Saturday, an individual must be nominated and seconded by committee members, who then speak on behalf of the candidate before a secret-ballot vote takes place, Lorrain said.

Currently, Demi Kouzounas of Saco, serves as party chairwpman, alongside Vice Chairman Lorrain. Kouzounas is running for re-election and is backed by former Gov. Paul LePage, but faces competition from former Rep. Heather Sirocki, of Scarborough, and Mason, who has received the support of the Legislature’s four Republican leaders: Senate Minority Leader Dana Dow, of Waldoboro, Senate Assistant Minority Leader Jeff Timberlake, of Turner, House Minority Leader Kathleen Dillingham, of Oxford and Assistant Minority Leader Trey Stewart, of Presque Isle.

Those four lawmakers also endorsed Fredette as an unofficial running-mate of Mason, writing in a letter to Republican leaders that the duo poses the strongest opportunity for the party to counter the Democrats, whose success in November “represent(s) a lack of cooperation and coordination that has existed between party headquarters and legislative leadership for far too long.”

Meg Robbins can be contacted at 861-9239 or at:

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