SACO — Primary day June 14 is just days away, and is in effect the deciding election for York County Commission District 3 since there is no Republican or independent in the race. Campaign finance reports show the two Democratic candidates have each raised and spent considerably more money than has been spent in past races for the same seat.

Both candidates in the race for the four-year term, incumbent Allen Sicard and challenger Justin Chenette say it might be time to examine changes that could include some form of public campaign financing.

Chenette, a former state senator, has raised $17,457, according to his 11-day pre-primary finance report to the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices and as of Monday, June 6, had spent all but around $200. Chenette donated $1,829 to his campaign; his spouse donated $11,528 according to ethics commission data available online.

Incumbent Allen Sicard has raised $7,025 according to his 11-day preprimary report, $2,000 of which he loaned to his campaign, and has spent $7,016 according to his 11-day preprimary report and a 24-hour report.

The district will include Saco, Old Orchard Beach, Buxton and Hollis when the new term begins Jan. 1 — Dayton is presently included but will be in another district in the new term because of reapportionment.

Allen Sicard Courtesy Photo

Sicard said Chenette, his opponent, is spending on a par with what is expended on a state legislative race.


“It’s over the line,” said Sicard. “I am outraged and disappointed that it went this far. It’s something the people of York County should know. I say he’s trying to buy the seat, period.”

Sicard pointed out that such spending is not illegal — there are no limits to the amount candidates may raise and spend in a county election race.

Sicard noted that four years earlier, he spent $2,680 in his campaign to unseat a Republican incumbent in the general election.

Chenette said it takes money to raise awareness of county government and to challenge an incumbent.

Justin Chenette Eduard Chenette Photo

“This has historically been a low key race with very little attention drawn to the issues and what the position is all about,” said Chenette. “(My campaign) spent a great deal of time over the last seven months to try and educate our area around the importance and significance of country government, and that does take some resources.”

He noted the primary election is the decider in this race. “We’re trying to change the awareness and the education in the community to ensure the issues at the county level are discussed,” said Chenette. He said he has assembled a team of 10 volunteers and interns who have been knocking on doors, making calls, and will be waving signs in various locations.


“Due to the size of the commission district across four towns, this commission district is comparable to the Senate District,” said Chenette. In 2016, Chenette spent $42,343 in Clean Elections public funding on the Maine Senate District 31 race, according to the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices online reports, which lumps primary and general election spending together in historical data. Chenette’s primary opponent, Barry Hobbins, raised just under $35,000 and spent $37,591, and Republican Tim Sevigny raised $23,325 and spent $23,295 in that Senate race.

Data from the ethics commission dating back to 2004 show modest spending in the race for District 3 County Commissioner. In the priciest race in the district until now, Saco resident Democrat Dan Cabral raised and spent just under $3,000 in total for the primary and general election in 2014. His opponent Republican Marston Lovell, who won the race, raised and spent about $1,375.

Moving ahead to the present, in York County Commission District 1, which includes Acton, Berwick, Cornish, Lebanon, Limington, Newfield, North Berwick, Parsonsfield, Shapleigh and South Berwick, former commissioner Michael Cote is making an independent bid in the fall election — there is no primary for unenrolled candidates. So far, he has raised $8,031 and spent $7,129. Incumbent Republican Robert Andrews does not have a primary opponent in the District 1 race, and as of Monday, his campaign report shows no contributions and no expenditures.

For county-wide races, which involve 29 municipalities instead of the four in County Commission District 3, historical data shows in some races, there was considerable spending. In the three-way Democratic primary for York County Sheriff in 2014, which decided the race since there was no Republican candidate, William King, who was elected, raised $9,655 and spent $11,954. Challenger Dana Lajoie raised $13,175 and spent $12,12,733 and Paul Main raised $5,457 and spent $6,957, according to ethics commission reports.

In the crowded race for York County Judge of Probate in 2004, where there were five Democrats in the primary and one Republican, one candidate spent $11,500, another, $11,907, the third $20,330, and the fourth, $35,820. Two reported no spending, according to the reports.

Sicard said he believes the county could use the state’s Clean Elections model for public funding of candidates, overseen by the state’s oversight board.


“This has to be addressed on the county level,” Sicard said.

“I would support moving the county into the direction of Clean Elections,” said Chenette. “I passed legislation to limit the influence of lobbyists, PACSs, and corporate contributions and increase ethics on candidates and lawmakers alike (when a state senator). We now have some of the strongest ethics rules in the country because of my leadership.”

Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices Director Jonathan Wayne said in general terms, he cannot recall public funding of election campaigns at the county level being proposed. He said the only local jurisdiction he knows of that has discussed Clean Elections for local candidates was the city of Portland.

Anna Keller, director of the nonprofit Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, said the organization has considered the idea of Clean Elections at the county level in the past, though it never reached the stage of legislation.

“Often, these races are low-spending, but when there are exceptions, they are worth tracking,” said Kellar. “In particular, we’ve looked at District Attorney races, as those contests have been drawing more attention and more spending. … In general, when the cost of running for office starts to escalate, it introduces the appearance of corruption and the potential for donors to have a disproportionate influence on elected officials. It makes it harder for people without deep pockets to compete. Clean Elections can help solve both problems.”

Kellar said if it appeared there was a trend, it would add urgency to expanding the Maine Clean Elections Act.

Asked about funding, Kellar said county elections are governed through state law, and the ethics commission administers campaign finance disclosure, “so I would expect that a county Clean Elections program would also be funded from the Clean Elections Fund,” though other funding ideas have not been explored.

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