Paradis defeats longtime Mayor Ash

In upset of strong incumbent, city elects its youngest mayor ever
By Ethan Andrews | Nov 07, 2017
Photo by: Ethan Andrews Mayor-elect Samantha Paradis takes a phone call on Election Night after defeating longtime Mayor Walter Ash.

Belfast — Political newcomer Samantha Paradis on Nov. 7 upset longtime Mayor Walter Ash in a two-way race for the mayor's seat. The energetic challenger defeated the five-term mayor by a citywide vote of 1,264 to 959.

With the decisive win, Paradis, who was 26 when she announced her candidacy in the spring, becomes the city's youngest mayor by more than a decade — Foster Small was 40 when he was elected in 1926 — as well as the second female mayor, following Page Worth, who led the city from 1986 to 2000. On Tuesday night she added to that list "the first queer mayor."

Paradis received the news at an election night gathering for her campaign at the Crosby Center. The former high school was attended by Mayor Ash before Paradis was born and recently reopened after years of dormancy as a multiuse facility with cooperative housing, offices, a hostel and performing arts venue.

Paradis was beaming as she and guests embraced and took in the upset victory over refreshments and cake.

"I want to say thank you to everyone who came out to vote," Paradis told The Republican Journal. "And I want to thank Walter. I really appreciate his leadership and I'm thankful for the service he provided."

Asked about her first move as mayor, Paradis said she wants to get to know the City Council better to understand how they work together. The Belfast mayor presides over the five-member City Council meetings and occasionally casts tie-breaker votes. The mayor does not have a direct vote in city matters but is often regarded as the city's leader.

In attendance at Paradis' Election Night party were friends and family members, some of whom had cast votes for Paradis earlier in the day.

Sabrina Vivian, a college acquaintance of Paradis' who recently moved to Belfast from Portland, said she was impressed that Paradis the candidate remained true to the woman she knew personally. She also welcomed the idea of having a young mayor leading the city.

"It's really inspiring to have such a young, fresh, unique face for the city of Belfast," Vivian said.

Paradis' mother, Stacy Paradis, stood by her daughter's side at the Belfast Boathouse during polling hours. Later at the Crosby Center, she said she wasn't surprised. "She never loses at anything," she said. "She wins because she puts her heart and hard work into everything."

"She has never been entitled, and that's a fact," she added in reference to a charge leveled at her daughter by an attendee candidates' forum earlier this month, who suggested that Paradis' bid for mayor was motivated by a "millennial's sense of entitlement."

Ash had few words after it was clear that he had lost to the newcomer. Speaking at the Boathouse polling site, he said he had expected to win based on his experience and the accomplishments of the city during his time as mayor.

"I can't believe they went that route — someone who's never done a thing," he said, referring to Paradis' lack of experience in city government. Ash said Paradis ran a good race and he has nothing personal against her.

"That's what the people want, that's what they get," he said. "That's all I've got to say."

Mayor Walter Ash and challenger Samantha Paradis, right, with her mother, Stacy Paradis, greet voters outside the polls at the Belfast Boathouse Nov. 7. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Mayor Walter Ash reads election results from a voting machine printout at the close of polls Nov. 7. The five-term mayor lost to political newcomer Samantha Paradis. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Samantha Paradis talks to a supporter during a post-election party at the Crosby Center in Belfast after receiving news that voters picked her to be the city's new mayor. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Comments (6)
Posted by: Harold Richardson | Nov 10, 2017 07:01

Thank you Mr. Ash.

Posted by: jackie facey | Nov 09, 2017 18:18

Thank you Walter

Posted by: John E Marshall | Nov 08, 2017 10:49

Belfast owes Walter a big thank you for his service as a Counselor, Mayor and member of the Maine Legislature and that's not even counting how many whose "beater" he kept running, jump started or pulled out of the ditch. He's entitled to feel a little grumpy about losing to a person with no political experience whose primary qualification was being "new blood".

Posted by: Sue Gendron | Nov 08, 2017 09:53

Gracious concession speech there....

Posted by: Ardene Parker | Nov 08, 2017 09:10

We have a new mayor. I wish you well and it is nice to see a fresh face. We, the older people of Belfast had our time, it is time for the next generation to take over. I am sure you will do great things for our city. I look forward to seeing other NEW faces on the council.

Posted by: from the kitchen | Nov 08, 2017 06:17

Mr Ash's reaction seems out of character, but someone once said " Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser.

Congratulations Miss Paradis.

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