Depressing 2020 election cycle enters the home stretch … maybe

We are nearing the end of one of the more depressing election cycles in U.S. history, and we cannot say with certainty that on Nov. 3, or just a few days thereafter, we will have been put out of our misery.

A zillion people have voted already, so any last-minute push is of questionable value. Still, every vote will count, this time more than ever, so if you have not yet done the deed, best not to wait much longer. That is, of course, unless you are wedded to the in-person Election Day experience. Everyone else should be getting themselves to their town offices or other designated voting spots to take care of business.

There are two races on for Hancock County Commissioners. The Commission encompasses the county jail, the courthouse, the Bar Harbor Airport, the Sheriff’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office, the registries of deeds and probate and the county’s unorganized territories. The county is divided into three districts.

District 3 includes Bucksport, coastal towns in the western portion of the county and Penobscot and Dedham. Commissioner John Wombacher’s term does not expire until December of 2022; he is not on the ballot.

District 1 spreads east along the coast from Surry and north, inland. Candidate Bill Clark, a Republican, is a familiar figure. He served in the Ellsworth Police Department and then in the Sheriff’s Office before winning election as county sheriff, a position he held for 34 years. He retired in 2014 but returned to public service in 2017 after being elected a county commissioner.

His opponent is Democrat Rebecca Wentworth of Blue Hill, who hopes to raise the level of interaction between the public and the County Commission. She is committed to the idea of restorative justice programs that would partner law enforcement with social services to enhance public safety and describes a background of extensive community organizing in a variety of areas such as housing and the environment.

District 3 consists of Mount Desert Island and Frenchboro, Cranberry and Swan’s islands plus Trenton, Lamoine, Franklin and Hancock. Either candidate would be new to the seat. Democrat Ian Schwartz of Mount Desert has not held prior office but has served on the Hancock County Budget Advisory Committee. Schwartz has a young family and was a teacher in South Korea for six years. He describes himself as “anti-cruise ship” and “pro-Black Lives Matter” and is a supporter of workforce housing and food security.

Schwartz comes across as an unsettlingly angry person. In a July letter to the Mount Desert Island Regional School System, he called for the superintendent of schools to resign, asking, “Why is the superintendent in charge of literally anything?” He asked what the police could “possibly contribute” to the superintendent’s “bogus committee to reopen our schools….?” He said both the superintendent and “any board member who supports him” should resign, to be replaced by “people who actually work at the school, not busybody parents who are terrified of having their property taxes increase….”

His Facebook posts range from the confrontational to the obscene. In one online response, he warned that “if people don’t vote for the Democrat in this election, they are voting for police riots, the deportation of our neighbors and total environmental destruction.”

He claims that the coronavirus was caused by capitalism, rails against Bar Harbor business owners who are “spending their lives getting rich stealing from black people” and “out-of-touch liberals.” He wants schools to remain closed and school buildings used to “provide and/or deliver three nutritious meals a day to anyone who requests them.” That, plus free internet and “heating supplies” could be paid for “by removing the police from our schools” and “by charging the bill to Hancock County’s numerous empty billionaire mansions.”

His opponent is Republican Paul Paradis from Bar Harbor. Schwartz assails Paradis in a lengthy Facebook post, in language uncommon in a local election. He calls Paradis “an authoritarian who crushes all dissent” and whose “wealth…comes from…the labor of his exploited workers, their unpaid wages being his profits.”

That description is hard to reconcile with the mild-mannered hardware store owner that is Paul Paradis, a man who does not come across as a crusher of dissent. His parents started the store and Paradis and his wife, Beth, continue the tradition of hard work and local service. He served on the Bar Harbor Town Council for 13 years, a role not every business owner is willing to take on. His policies were not universally supported but he was a thoughtful and civil member of the council and the community.

It is unfortunate that Ian Schwartz has taken such a strident tone. We live in a fever of anger, rancor and confrontation. This race should go to Paul Paradis.

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait worked for 25 years as a registered nurse at Mount Desert Island Hospital. She has served as a Bar Harbor town councilor and as an independent state senator from Hancock County.

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