HALLOWELL — A former state marine resources commissioner won an at-large seat on the City Council in a landslide over an ex-councilor Tuesday.
George Lapointe beat Andrew McPherson, who was at the center of political controversy during the campaign about a volunteer group he once ran, by a 534—283 margin, getting 62 percent of votes.
The official who most criticized McPherson, Regional School Unit 2 Chairwoman Dawn Gallagher, fended off a strong write-in challenge from local real estate agent Chris Vallee. She won 56 percent of votes, but Vallee got 34 percent with two weeks to campaign and without a spot on the ballot. The rest of the votes were blank or for other people.
Three other races in Hallowell featured unopposed candidates: Mark Walker, of Water Street, the city council’s president, will replace Charlotte Warren as mayor. Lynn Irish, of Second Street, will replace Walker as councilor from Ward 2, largely in the city’s north end. Councilor Mark Sullivan, of Second Street, will return to represent the city’s southern edge.
McPherson and Gallagher clashed weeks before the election because of McPherson’s leadership of Team Hall-Dale, the volunteer group he formed as a councilor in 2004 to raise $558,000 for upgrades to Hall-Dale Elementary School, which opened in 2006.
By this October, the group had raised 41 percent of the money when McPherson, 53, of Chamberlain Drive folded it, citing bad press in the Kennebec Journal. In September, Gallagher criticized McPherson for speaking out against an 8.9 percent tax hike in Hallowell this year that happened largely because of the RSU’s budget. She said McPherson could have helped that by raising the money he initially promised, but he cited a bad economy through the last part of the last decade that dried up pledges.
Vallee announced that he was entering the race for a seat on RSU 2, which includes Hallowell, Farmingdale, Richmond, Monmouth and Dresden, on Oct. 21. Vallee never directly criticized Gallagher, but said he was getting into the race “to have a positive outlook.”
Lapointe, 56, of Middle Street, never jumped into the fray publicly on Team Hall-Dale, and he and McPherson staked out only modestly different policy positions.
For example, Lapointe said while he didn’t like Hallowell’s tax hike, penalizing students for lack of funding “doesn’t make sense.” McPherson took a harder line on taxes, saying he would support seeking voter approval for all non-essential city purchases over a certain amount of money — perhaps $100,000.