BRUNSWICK — The Town Council will have a significantly different
ideological slant come January, after voters on Tuesday elected three
candidates with strong backing from the business community.
In perhaps the most watched race, at-large Councilor Joanne King
easily defeated Councilor Karen Klatt, the current District 4
councilor, 5,276 to 2,758.
In District 4, John Perreault, a local
businessman and developer, defeated Jason Bergquist, a Green
Independent candidate for state Senate last year, 797-524.
District 3, challenger Suzan Wilson knocked off incumbent council
Chairwoman Hallie Daughtry, 864-768.
All results were unofficial with 500 ballots still to be hand counted.
Only 20 of those ballots were in District 3, not enough to overturn the
The outcome effectively flips the current council dynamic toward
pro-development just a year after the current majority gained power by
running against controversial projects like a proposed Walgreens
pharmacy and championing more accountability from the Brunswick
Economic Development Corp.
Wilson and Perreault agreed the outcome would likely shift the council dynamic, but stressed that the new majority favored responsible development.
“I’m not out to put something where it doesn’t belong,” Perreault said.
Wilson, meanwhile, said her first order of business will be to restore funding to the town’s Marine Resources Department. She also acknowledged that the council could become more receptive to development proposals.
“To some, pro-business sounds like a nasty word because they consider capitalism to be evil,” she said. “… I think this will be a more forward-thinking council and less of a rejectionist council.”
Klatt, in particular, had irked the business community during her
tenure. Last year she accused a local developer and committee member of having a conflict of interest. The dispute simmered until earlier this year when the conflict turned personal, leading to uproar in the business establishment and, ultimately, Klatt’s censure by the council.
That disagreement, plus Klatt’s opposition to the Walgreens project, were the focus of questions during a Oct. 29 candidates forum hosted by the Brunswick Downtown Association. The BDA last year came out in support of Walgreens.
During the forum, Klatt claimed she was being attacked by BDA members. During an exchange of several e-mails, her supporters also criticized BDA member David Knight of “bullying” Klatt over the destruction of King’s campaign signs.
Knight, who is married to Town Councilor Margo Knight, later wrote Klatt to say he wasn’t accusing her of destroying King’s signs.
King, meanwhile, said Wednesday that she tried hard to stay above the negativity. As in previous elections, King financed her own campaign because she wasn’t comfortable accepting contributions.
“I sent back several checks,” she said. “I like to do my own thing and not worry about someone thinking about who controls me.”
King also said her economic development platform and her straightforwardness tipped the vote in her favor. She acknowledged support from the BDA and other business groups, but rejected the notion that she was beholden to their interests.
“I’ve taken heat from all sides at one time or another,” King said, adding that her 2008 decision to kill a business park deal drew widespread criticism from the business community.
Ultimately, she said, her hard work and commitment to the town’s betterment were what appealed to voters.
“I’m a straight-shooter,” she said. “I don’t get myself into trouble with double-talk. I’m out there to do the best I can.”
King’s victory gives her a fifth term on the council. She defeated
Klatt in every district. The closest outcomes were in District 6 and
District 7, which typically draw the highest concentration of Bowdoin
College voters. Klatt targeted the latter, taking out a paid
advertisement in the Bowdoin Orient, the student newspaper, and
campaigning during the college’s Early Voting Day.
Klatt, in an e-mail on Wednesday, made no attempt at conciliation with her opponents.
“As I went door to door during my campaign, I heard a lot of positive feedback for the courage I have to stand up for the people, to be fiscally responsible, and to promote and demand open and responsive government. I also heard a lot of complaints with the status quo,” she said. “The problem is the ‘good old boy’ network is so strong here in Brunswick that dirty politics has replaced democracy. It’s a shame and for the people that supported me, I am very sorry. As for the people that did not support me, you made your choice and now you will have to live with it.”
Wilson’s victory over two-term
incumbent Daughtry was, perhaps, most surprising. This was Wilson’s third attempt to unseat Daughtry.
Her win was the first by a challenger over an incumbent since David
Watson defeated Councilor Mike Feldman in 2001.
Daughtry, in a printed statement, said she was disappointed in the outcome but also hopeful. On Tuesday, she worried that a late start in her campaign, combined with the large number of absentee voters, may have hurt her chances. Daughtry estimated that 20 percent of the voters she spoke to had already voted.
According to Town Clerk Fran Smith, 61 percent of registered Brunswick voters participated in the election. Last year, voter turnout was about 77 percent. More than 3,061 absentee ballots were cast prior to Tuesday.
Smith said there were 498 absentee ballots in District 3, which has approximately 2,000 registered voters.
All three School Board candidates were uncontested. Incumbents
Michelle Small and Corrine Perreault, John Perreault’s wife, won, as did
newcomer James Corey. None of the candidates faced write-in
Brunswick At-Large Town Councilor Joanne King, center, greets voters outside the District 2 and District 7 polls Tuesday at Brunswick Junior High School. King held off a challenge by Councilor Karen Klatt.Brunswick Town Councilor Karen Klatt greets a voter Tuesday at Brunswick Junior High School. Klatt lost her attempt to unseat Councilor-at-Large Joanne King.