WATERVILLE — City officials are expecting an above average turnout for elections Tuesday, in part driven by a question asking local residents whether to keep Mayor Nick Isgro in office or have him recalled.

The recall question follows a tweet by the mayor in early April telling the survivor of a Florida school shooting to “Eat it” and will ask voters, “Shall Nicholas S. Isgro be recalled?”

A “Yes” vote means Isgro will be removed from office and City Council Chair Steve Soule will preside over council meetings until an election can be held. A “No” vote means Isgro will remain in office.

The recall is one of two local questions facing city voters on Tuesday.

In Ward 5 residents will be asked if they want to recall City Councilor John O’Donnell, whom some have criticized following a decision by the City Council to appoint O’Donnell to a temporary seat vacated by Nick Champagne.

In statewide elections, voters will be asked to choose candidates in the gubernatorial election and to vote in a referendum asking if they want to keep ranked-choice voting in place.

A handful of legislative races will also be before voters in Waterville and surrounding areas.

The effort to recall Isgro, a Republican who was re-elected to office in November, was started by former Waterville Mayor Karen Heck and a handful of residents following outrage over a tweet by the mayor on his personal Twitter account in April.

Isgro responded to an article about Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham losing sponsorships for disparaging comments she made about Parkland, Florida school shooting survivor David Hogg, saying “Eat it, Hogg!”

“I think part of a healthy democracy is debate and discussion,” said Hilary Koch, one of the residents involved in starting the recall, on Monday. “In terms of tomorrow, I think residents deserve to be represented by leaders who take responsibility for their actions, have integrity and convey the values of our community to the rest of the world. Mayor Isgro has suggested if we don’t agree with him or if we question his views, then we’re outsiders and don’t belong here.”

Isgro has refused to comment on his social media. In response to a request for comment Monday, he pointed a reporter to two posts on his mayoral Facebook page.

The first post, made Sunday, talks about attacks Isgro said he and his family have received throughout the last two months from “elites and outsiders.”

“As I said from the beginning, this attack isn’t an attack on me,” he said. “It’s an attack on all of us. All of the thousands of dark money dollars and paid for paratroopers of deceit that descended upon Waterville in order to finish off their work by removing me and then removing our long time residents, the hard working families and fixed income seniors that built this city have failed.”

The post, as well as one made Monday, urges people to vote “No.”

“This Tuesday we will be coming together to vote NO on the mayoral recall as a people’s veto of taxing Waterville families out of their homes and NO to outsiders trying to hijack our city,” it says.

The recall has played into recent debate over the city budget, as the mayor has said members of the city council and others are trying to oust him from office to prevent him from vetoing the city budget, while critics of Isgro’s have said he is using the threat of a tax increase as a scare tactic and trying to distract from the reason for the recall.

Isgro first alleged city councilors were working behind the scenes on a 13 percent tax increase and the recall was a way of distracting the public from a massive tax hike.

Councilors took issue with Isgro’s statement and said they only had preliminary budget numbers and the process to come up with a budget had been open and transparent.

Last week, the council took a first vote and unanimously approved a $41.9 million combined municipal and school budget, representing an 8.3 percent tax increase.

Following the meeting, Isgro said in a Facebook post he would veto any budget that raises taxes by more than 3 percent, though he has not provided details on how he would do so.

Fallout over the mayor’s tweet and the recall effort has proven divisive in the city, with city council meetings frequently growing contentious. The Waterville Education Association, the local teacher’s union, has urged its members to support the recall, saying Isgro’s tweet does not reflect a welcoming community and sets a poor example for students.

Meanwhile, Brownhouse Properties, a local apartment rental company, distributed a notice to tenants last week urging them to reject the recall. The notice also tied the recall to potential rent increases, a move that a spokeswoman for the ACLU of Maine said could constitute a violation of the Voting Rights Act.

The only other recall of a mayor in recent Waterville history was in December 1998 when Mayor Ruth Joseph was recalled following accusations she was bullying employees, making secret deals and trying to bypass the City Council.

She was replaced in a recall election in 1999 by Nelson Madore, the predecessor to Paul LePage, who served two terms as Waterville mayor before being elected Maine governor.

As of Saturday, City Hall had received almost 800 absentee ballots, according to Deputy City Clerk Sarah Cross. Cross predicted a turnout of about 4,500 voters on Tuesday, which would be very high for a primary, she said. The expectations for a high turnout are being driven primarily by the mayoral recall as well as the ranked choice referendum, Cross said.

Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Thomas College.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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