Lewiston (Maine) Mayor Shane Bouchard abruptly resigned yesterday morning following a string of allegations were made against him during the last week. A local woman recently admitted to forwarding campaign emails to the Republican from his Democratic opponent during the 2017 mayoral election. She also produced 150 text messages from Bouchard to her which included racist and sexist language.
An unexpected confession at a City Council meeting
Members of the Lewiston City Council were left silent at Tuesday evening’s City Council meeting when local resident Heather Everly Berube took to the podium, called for Mayor Shane Bouchard to resign, and explained her part in a previously unsolved mystery from the 2017 mayoral campaign.
In December 2017, internal campaign emails from the campaign Democratic candidate Ben Chin were published on a Maine GOP-aligned website called the Maine Examiner. In one email, Chin refers to encountering a “bunch of racists” while campaigning. According to the Examiner article, the emails were provided by “a Chin campaign insider concerned about the direction of the campaign.”
The damaging story is considered to have aided Bouchard’s eventual victory, but as of Tuesday night the source of the email leak had been unknown.
Standing before the Lewiston City Council, Berube identified herself as the source.
“I connected with Mayor Bouchard, where I had an affair with him, and he was able to retrieve emails from (the Maine People’s Alliance’s) and Ben Chin’s campaign,” she said.
“The best thing I can do for my community is just come forward and be honest and share what I know,” she explained later in her speech. “I gave the emails to Shane Bouchard on September 26th 2017, and he then gave those emails to the Republican Party, to Jason Savage, who wrote articles for the Maine Examiner that twisted Ben’s words and made him out to be a racist.”
Mayor Bouchard was not present at the meeting to hear the allegations, having been away in Florida following the death of a relative. City Council members thanked Berube for coming forward, but made no comment about her remarks.
The email “domino effect”
In an interview with the Lewiston-based Sun Journal the next day, Berube explained why she decided to help Bouchard’s campaign in 2017, despite then being a volunteer for his Democratic opponent.
“I didn’t want (Maine People’s Alliance) to own my city. And having a Republican mayor to balance out the six liberal city councilors made sense,” she said, referring to the local progressive organization that Ben Chin and other local prominent Democrats belong to.
Berube also appears to have taken offense at the way she thought she was treated by Chin.
“Ben wouldn’t listen to me,” she told the Sun Journal. “I asked him for a meeting and he showed up to talk at me.”
She began corresponding with Bouchard via Facebook, and she alleges their friendship eventually became physical (an allegation which Bouchard denies). After initially refusing to share internal Chin-campaign emails with Bouchard, she began sending all of her campaign correspondence to him in September.
“I have no idea why I gave them to him when I did,” she said in yesterday’s interview. “I think that there was one email that really upset me about Ben talking bad about the other candidates. And I sent that to him. After I sent one, just domino effect.”
Both Bouchard and Maine Examiner owner Jason Savage have denied that Berube is the source for the emails published in the Maine Examiner.
Shane Bouchard sends racist and sexist texts
In addition to her role in the email scandal, Heather Everly Berube also came forward late Wednesday night with 150 texts she exchanged with Bouchard. Several containing racist and sexist jokes.
One text compared a local Republican organization to the KKK.
“Then my clan meeting. I mean andro GOP meeting,” he texted.
“That’s not funny,” Berube replied.
On Thursday morning, when faced with the text messages, Bouchard apologized for the racist and sexist content.
“I say stupid things and stupid jokes occasionally,” he said, according to the Press Herald.
“A couple of racist-ish, not racist comments but just distasteful jokes, more than anything are just, again, stupid messaging between friends,” he continued. “You never know how that’s going to get spun on you.”
Shane Bouchard resigns
At a hastily arranged press conference yesterday morning, Bouchard resigned from office.
“Several allegations have arisen in the last few days, and some of them very personal,” he said. “It has become clear to me that the media does not acknowledge personal space and reports on nothing more than rumor in many cases.
“In this political climate where the media does not discriminate between facts and rumors, it is hard to be a public figure.”
Bouchard said friends and family have encouraged him to “stand and fight.”
“I intend to do just that, but I cannot do that effectively from the mayor’s seat. It is not fair to the people of Lewiston,” he said.
He concluded saying, “I look forward to being cleared of all the accusations currently being looked into jointly by the Lewiston PD and the Attorney General’s office.”
Shortly after Bouchard’s statement, City Councillor Alicia Ray issued a statement saying:
“The city is now able to move forward from these troubling allegations and can get back to work for the citizens of Lewiston. I look forward to supporting interim Mayor Kristen Cloutier as she completes this term.
“This city deserves a mayor who will look out for its best interests and we will have that in Mayor Cloutier.”