This year’s district attorney race is the first one that’s contested since 1998
The district attorney’s race in Penobscot and Piscataquis counties is not as controversial as the Cumberland County contest or as expensive as the midcoast race.
But both candidates — Republican Marianne Lynch and Democrat Joseph Belisle — have spent far more than the man they are hoping to replace spent over the past two decades in his re-election campaigns.
That’s because District Attorney R. Christopher Almy, a Democrat from Charleston, hasn’t had an opponent since 1998. He first was elected to the office in 1986.
Lynch has raised $8,250, about three-and-a-half times the $2,330 Belisle has raised, according to the latest campaign finance reports filed Friday with the Maine Ethics Commission. She was her own largest contributor, giving the campaign $6,200. Belisle, a Bangor attorney with a solo practice, made a $655 contribution to his campaign, making him the largest donor. As of Friday, Lynch had about $483 on hand and Belisle had a little over $70, the reports showed.
The two candidates in the midcoast prosecutorial district that includes Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox and Waldo counties have raised a total of about $57,000, according to campaign finance reports. Candidates in the Cumberland County race, which included a three-way Democratic primary, have spent a total of more $125,000.
On Monday, Democrat Jon Gale dropped out of the race following a request from the Maine Democratic Party and reports in the BDN that three former colleagues said he’d left a private-sector job in 2004 amid a human resources investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct. His withdrawal leaves independent Johnathan Sahrbeck as the lone candidate. Republican Randall Bates dropped out after the primary.
Almy, 69, in March turned in his nomination papers to run for re-election but withdrew them when he found out Lynch, now his deputy, was running. He failed to tell local or state party officials that he’d withdrawn so that a Democrat could file to run in his place.
Belisle, 36, ran in the June primary as a write-in candidate and earned many more votes than the required 300 to get his name on the ballot as the Democratic candidate.
Almy endorsed Lynch, 47, of Bangor in March when she was an assistant district attorney. He has since made her is deputy.
“Marianne Lynch expressed an interest in running and I encouraged that,” he said the day after the filing deadline. “And I’d just as soon at this point let someone take over the reins.”
He said that party affiliation is not an important part of the job.
“From my perspective, the important aspect of running a DA’s office is competence and integrity. Political affiliation is not a factor,” he said.
Almy has said that he is not retiring and would like to continue working as an assistant district attorney under Lynch. She said last week that it is too early to discuss personnel issues.
Both candidates have said that addressing the opioid epidemic through treatment is a priority.
“I have found people responsive to an approach that addresses the root causes of much of the crime in our communities, especially chronic substance abuse and mental health issues,” Belisle said of talking with people during his campaign. “I believe I am the best candidate to balance fairness, compassion and the safety of our communities.”
Lynch has said that she will address the opioid crisis by promoting treatment and “vigorous prosecution of those who distribute dangerous drugs.”
Her other priorities include prosecuting serious violent criminals, impaired drivers and domestic violence and sex offenders, according to a mailer paid for by her campaign. She has been endorsed for the job by seven members of law enforcement including the sheriffs in Penobscot and Piscataquis counties, who are both Republicans.