Shane Bouchard resigned as the mayor of Lewiston, Maine after exceedingly racist texts came to light. These texts were part of a broader narrative of racism surrounding Bouchard.
“All my jokes are quite racist lol,” Bouchard texted Heather Everly Berube,
He proceeded to illustrate this point by calling elderly black men “antique farm equipment.” He also referred to a gathering of his fellow Republicans as his “clan meeting” in an apparent reference to the Ku Klux Klan. Since those texts were revealed, Bouchard has said they are not indicative of his opinion of his black constituents and that he is not a racist.
According to census estimates, 4.3 percent of Lewiston’s 36,221 residents are black. 88 percent are white.
“I say stupid things and stupid jokes occasionally,” Bouchard later told local news. He went on to describe the texts as “a couple of racist-ish, not racist comments but just distasteful jokes, more than anything are just, again, stupid messaging between friends.”
But in his race in 2015 against Democrat Ben Chin, Bouchard got internal Chin campaign emails from Berube that described the racism Chin faced in Lewiston. Chin lost to Bouchard in part because of local reaction to Chin’s claim in the leaked emails that he had encountered “a bunch of racists” while campaigning. Which he had.
— Chris Costa (@ChrisCostaTV) October 19, 2015
“I think there’s no question that the racial conflict in America across the board, no matter who you are or where you’re from, whether you’re African American or Latino or Asian or Native American, it’s reaching a boiling point,” Chin told NBC. “And our city is unfortunately no exception to that.”
Bouchard is now under criminal investigation for his potential role in leaking his opponent’s emails.
The texts Berube released from Bouchard also included him asking if she knew “a set of 20 year old blonde twins” or “an overweight brunette” in response to what would improve his night.
“I’m so sexist. Lol,” he texted.
This is not the first time in recent memory Lewiston has had a mayor rocked by racist remarks. In 2002, then-Mayor Larry Raymond released an open letter asking the city’s growing Somali refugee population to spread the word among friends and family asking Somalis stop moving to the city.
“If you believe in [Somali culture] so much, why aren’t you over there fighting for it? If you believe in it so much, why aren’t you over there shedding your blood to get it? Why are you over here shirking your duties?” Raymond said. “You [immigrants] come here, you come and you accept our culture and you leave your culture at the door.”
Maine also recently saw the term of an explosively racist governor end. Republican Governor Paul LePage said, among many other bombastic and offensive remarks, that the electoral college protected white people, that nonwhites represented a national crisis and he raised alarms about interracial couples. LePage’s style was compared to being Trumpian before Trump, and though he was term-limited, his legacy helped elect Democrat Janet Mills.
Mayor Bouchard’s Friday resignation was effective immediately.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.