The atmosphere was electric, the mood euphoric at the boisterous Lithgow Library referendum victory party in jam-packed downtown Augusta’s Charlamagne’s.

The Friends of Lithgow, and the people of Augusta, had won.

The long wait was over for Laurel Coleman, who refused to give up after the 2007 referendum loss. Since then, she has devoted much of her spare time to raising money to save the library.

Coleman was aided by a co-chairman, Charles “Wick” Johnson, and the capital campaign took off. Learning from past mistakes, political advice was sought and followed.

A creative plan was developed and presented to city government. City Manager Bill Bridgeo and Finance Director Ralph St.Pierre added a bond refinancing plan guaranteeing no tax increase. Mayor Bill Stokes and the City Council quickly endorsed the plan and sent it to referendum. The Save Lithgow Library campaign worked. Augusta’s valuable, historic library will be transformed into an exciting new modern technology and community center.

I have always believed that if you give people a cause they can believe in and that is worth fighting for, the desired result will follow. In this case, it was a landside vote for Lithgow, 82 percent to 18 percent.


Many people helped Save Lithgow Library. The Friends had two presidents during this campaign: Jan Rollins and then Amanda Bartlett. Amy Anderson did a great job in fundraising, and a dedicated group of volunteers met almost every week. Augusta’s mayor, a true leader, became the needed political champion. Rick Tardiff’s big, classy signs were terrific, and David Madore took our referendum plan design and implemented it beautifully.

As we celebrated our victory election night, my thoughts wandered back to a meeting with Coleman six years ago, when we explained that the library’s Friends weren’t ready yet, they had not raised any private funds, and voters would not approve the tax increase. After a crushing defeat, she understood what we meant. This time was different.

The Friends of Lithgow Library, with their resiliency and perseverance, have earned the admiration and respect of Augusta’s residents.

I want to remind everyone, though, that the job is not done. The capital campaign continues at in order to meet the commitments we’ve made.

Other election thoughts

Now, attention shifts to the municipal election in November. Nomination petitions become available on or about July 7.


Within a few short months, we will have a new mayor (since Stokes must resign after he is confirmed as a judge), and there probably will be three new city councilors. The seats representing Wards 1 and 4 will be open since Councilors Michael Byron and Mark O’Brien are term-limited out.

If Councilor at-large Dave Rollins is elected mayor, a council replacement for him would be elected in a special election.

A new face of Augusta city government will be drawn by early 2015.

On the state political scene, Bruce Poliquin’s victory in the Republican primary for the 2nd District seat in Congress surprised those who don’t understand the conservative base of the Republican Party here and in other parts of the country.

Poliquin, a former state treasurer who is credited by many with saving the state pension system, is closely linked to Gov. Paul LePage.

Poliquin’s easy 56 percent to 44 percent victory over veteran Kevin Raye was achieved by the use of a pointed candidate comparison campaign, my favorite tactic.

People swear that they hate so-called negative campaigns, but I believe it was the attack points made by Poliquin and his consultants in TV ads and other campaign materials that won it for him. Poliquin convinced the conservative Republican voters of the 2nd District that Raye was OK with President Barack Obama’s health care reform and unrestricted abortion. The line “Poliquin would fight against taxes and for reduction of the nation’s debt if they send him to Washington, Raye would not” closed the sale.

Poliquin’s win augurs well for LePage’s re-election chances, especially if Obama and the Democrats in Washington continue, by their actions, to fuel another 2010-style Republican tsunami around the country.

Don Roberts is a former city councilor and vice chairman of the Charter Commission in Augusta. He is a trustee of the Greater Augusta Utility District, and a representative to the Legislative Policy Committee of Maine Municipal Association.

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