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Bath councilor questions political booth placement at Autumnfest

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Bath councilor questions political booth placement at Autumnfest

BATH — City Councilor Kyle Rogers is questioning the way a political candidates table was authorized during this year's Citizen Involvement Day ceremony, held Oct. 9 during Autumnfest.

In an Oct. 13 e-mail to City Manager Bill Giroux, the Ward 3 councilor asked why the tent-covered table was allowed at the Waterfront Park event, and why only some council candidates were told about it. He said they were told they could not erect political signs, but some signs were in evidence.

Rogers, who is not up for re-election, also questioned why the late decision was made to allow that kind of table, and said it appeared the city was helping one or more candidates gain an advantage over their opponents.

Giroux on Friday said the Democratic and Republican parties have campaigned  for state offices at prior events, and this was the first year he received requests from individual council candidates.

"We've had political (tables) down there before," he said. "We've never told anyone that they can't be there."

Giroux said that with space limited, he asked that all council candidates share the same booth. He said he notified all the candidates about the opportunity two days before the event. He said he asked them not to put up signs up due to the space limitation.

With six people running for three seats on the council, he noted, "I think it's great that we have so many people that are interested in serving on the council. From our perspective, we look forward to working with whoever the voters choose. We don't get involved in this stuff."

Councilor Mari Eosco, who is seeking re-election in Ward 5, said she put campaign material at the event only after she and the other candidates were invited to do so. She said she put up a sign, but did not get the impression that she was not allowed to do so.

"I would have never intentionally put a sign out if I knew I wasn't supposed to," Eosco said.

At-large candidate Benjamin Burden said he had asked about having the table, and that Ward 7 candidate Cal Stilphen was at the table with him during the event.

"I think it's important for the candidates who are running to have some exposure in Citizens Involvement Day," Burden said. "That makes sense ... (citizens) should be aware that people are running for office."

Councilor Ruthe Pagurko, who is running again for her Ward 7 seat and was out of state Friday for a family medical issue, said by phone that she was concerned about the table because all the council candidates were not informed about the opportunity until close to the day of the event.

She also noted that council candidates had not had a table at Citizens Involvement Day before, "and I just felt like that was not the place to be."

Rogers said Friday that the committee that organizes Citizen Involvement Day should have decided whether to authorize the space for the council candidates.

"They should have come out right from the beginning and said, 'we're going to allow political tents,'" he said. "I have no problem with that; it's something new ... you can't come in last minute and say 'we want to have a table,' and then expect to get it."

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.