WATERVILLE — Mayor Karen Heck has endorsed Republican candidate Nick Isgro for mayor, saying she believes he will do the best job for the city.

“He’s a lot more thoughtful and positive force, I think, right now,” Heck said Friday when endorsing Isgro.

Isgro is running against Democrat Steve Aucoin, a former city councilor, and City Councilor Karen Rancourt-Thomas, D-Ward 7.

Heck, who is unenrolled in any of the three political parties in Maine, said in August she wouldn’t endorse a candidate in the race. She said Friday that she tends to vote Democrat, so her endorsement of Isgro is significant.

“This is huge for me because every other candidate I’m voting for is a Democrat — because I totally believe in the approach of the Democrats here in the state and the nation,” Heck said. “But when it comes right down to what’s happening in Waterville, I think Nick is the best choice for continuing the work I’ve started in Waterville.”

Heck said one of the reasons she endorsed Isgro is that during the debate on pay-as-you-throw, the city’s new trash collection system, he was thoughtful and respectful. She said she has met with Isgro to discuss issues and he is forward-thinking and makes decisions based on what is best for the city and not because they are along party lines. She said she thinks Isgro will move ahead with initiatives she started, including efforts to revitalize the downtown and the airport.

Isgro said that when he launched his campaign, people told him there was no way someone as conservative as he would get any votes outside of the Republican party.

“I think what Karen’s endorsement shows is what I’ve been saying all along — that the Waterville mayor’s race is not about ideology — it’s about what’s best for Waterville, and I’m thrilled the mayor decided to give me this endorsement,” he said Friday.

Heck took issue Friday with Aucoin’s contention that nonprofit organizations such as colleges and hospitals should pay taxes, saying they benefit the city in other important ways and donate money to the city.

“Colby is very interested in working with Waterville to make the downtown a creative, vibrant downtown and that’s going to involve millions of dollars and lots of work and it’s far more beneficial to us to work with the school than to spend one moment of our time trying to get them to pay taxes,” Heck said.

Heck spoke in a telephone interview Friday morning before a mayoral debate sponsored by cable access station CATV was held at 10 a.m. in the Waterville City Council chambers. Heck said she could not attend, as she had another engagement.

After the debate, Aucoin noted that he never expected an endorsement from Heck. Responding to Heck’s comments about his belief that Colby and other nonprofit organizations should pay taxes, Aucoin said Heck, a Colby alumna, has always been a Colby advocate.

“Colby is a very successful business,” Aucoin said. “Successful businesses usually pay taxes. I don’t understand the defending of that prerogative from a Democrat’s point of view. Fair taxation — is it really fair that some single-family homeowners, anywhere in the city, pay Colby’s way or Thomas College’s way or the hospitals’ way? Because it’s not just Colby. It’s the whole load. Waterville has 13 square miles and a third of it is tax-exempt.”

Aucoin said he is frustrated when people try to make the tax issue all about Colby.

“It’s the accumulative burden and she (Heck) doesn’t understand it or doesn’t want to consider that,” he said.

When endorsing Isgro, Heck did not point out specific objections about Rancourt-Thomas, but said she thinks Isgro is “more positive in his approach.”

“Karen is an advocate for the South End and the South End is one part of the city,” Heck said.

Rancourt-Thomas responded later by saying she was not surprised Heck endorsed Isgro.

“It doesn’t faze me in the least,” Rancourt-Thomas said. “I didn’t expect her to endorse me anyway. I think we’re polar opposites on a lot of issues. I don’t think it (the endorsement) holds any credibility. I think people are going to vote for who they want to vote for. She didn’t have to support me. I didn’t support her run for mayor — I supported Dana Sennett.”

Heck said she also endorses incumbent city councilors Erik Thomas, D-Ward, 4, and Dana Bushee, D-Ward 6, who face, respectively, Republican Sydney R. Mayhew and Jibryne E. Karter III, who is running with no political party affiliation listed next to his name.

Heck also endorsed Nathaniel J. White for the Ward 2 council race. White, A Democrat, faces opposition from Zackary T. Bickford, a Republican, and Normand P. Veilleux, who is running for Ward 2 with no political party affiliation next to his name.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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