The winning candidates this week in Winslow were, clockwise from top left: Michael Joseph, Ashley Powell, Adam Lint and Frances Hudson. Powell won a seat on the School Board, while the others were elected to the Town Council. Courtesy photos

WINSLOW — A combination of rising tax bills, the fanning of criticism on social media and some contentious issues that roiled the town contributed to an anti-incumbent sentiment that led voters to back political newcomers on Election Day, according to candidates, town officials and others.

The three town councilors seeking reelection all lost Tuesday, including the council chairman, and another incumbent on the School Board also failed in his bid for another term.

Vote tallies showed that Michael Joseph, Frances Hudson and Adam Lint were successful in their bids for the Town Council, while Ashley Powell was elected to the School Board.

“In my 30 years of being a town and city clerk, I have never seen this happen in any of the communities that I worked,” Lisa Gilliam, Winslow’s former town clerk, said. “This year’s referendum ballot had topics that were bringing people to the polls, but when there is a situation that has been ongoing like this one in Winslow, residents want to be heard.”

In recent months, the Town Council has faced scrutiny over the departure of the town manager, the management style of the public safety director, claims of “secret meetings” by councilors and the quick move to hire a new town manager. Residents were also upset by a townwide revaluation that drove an increase in property tax bills.

Paul Gregory, a Winslow resident of about 30 years, said he had not typically paid close attention to town politics. That changed when he began reading what people were saying on Facebook about each new development.


“I just heard smatterings of people disenchanted with the council,” he said. “Everyone was so mad about their taxes going up and (the council) supposedly having secret meetings and stuff.”

Gregory is one of nearly 5,900 people to have joined the “What’s Happening in Winslow, Maine?” Facebook group, where residents debate town politics, discuss local news and crack jokes about sitting councilors. One of the people who won a seat on the Town Council, Hudson, manages the page.

In a recent post to the group, Gregory asked others for their thoughts on those running for the council.

“I wasn’t sure about the candidates,” he said. “I thought, ‘Well, let me see what everyone else is thinking,’ and boy did that explode.”

His post received more than 80 comments, and while many respondents politely shared their thoughts, others attacked the candidates and argued with one another. Several accused councilors of dodging taxes, bullying residents and mismanaging town government.

Outgoing council Chairman Drapeau said Wednesday he has never seen a local election as contentious as Winslow’s this year, and the results were fueled largely by vitriolic social media campaigns and anti-establishment politics nationwide.


“Let’s get back to the 2016 election, where (Donald) Trump won a national presidential election via Twitter,” Drapeau said. “This is what they accomplished. What (voters) did was they voted against any incumbent, and they geared up on Facebook.”

Drapeau said each of the candidates who was elected actively campaigned among the “What’s Happening in Winslow, Maine?” Facebook group, picking up voters who might not have tuned in previously to town politics. Those voters, Drapeau said, likely cast the deciding blows.

Ashley Powell, a mother of six who won a seat on the School Board, said she did much of her campaigning in the Facebook group. She said the platform has helped get people interested in town politics, which gave newcomers a boost at the polls.

“I didn’t really campaign too much,” Powell said Wednesday. “I went on Facebook and said who I was, and what I want to do, and how long I’ve been in Winslow. My husband hadn’t registered to vote in about 10 years, and registered for the first time yesterday — and I don’t think it was just because I was running.”

Drapeau said much of the acrimony stemmed from the property revaluation the town completed this year, which increased tax bills for many people. Many posts in the group blamed the Town Council for the bigger tax bills, although Drapeau said councilors had no control over the revaluation’s outcome. The state requires that each municipality periodically conduct a revaluation.

“What killed us was not their talent,” Drapeau said. “It was not their campaigning. It was the fact that we had to do a (revaluation) that should have been done five to seven years ago.

“A lot of (residents) don’t understand that their tax bill was doubled, and that we had nothing to do with it. That was what killed us.”

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