Selectmen candidates say they don’t know party involved with phone poll

Unidentified caller asking Boothbay Harbor voters about selectman’s race and three ballot questions
Wed, 05/01/2019 - 9:15am

All four Boothbay Harbor selectmen’s candidates don’t know the party responsible for soliciting voters' preferences in this weekend’s municipal elections. A few days ago, Boothbay Harbor residents began receiving calls asking how they planned to vote on referendum questions 3, 4 and 5. The unidentified caller also asked voters who they preferred for selectmen. On May 3, voters head to the polls and cast ballots on the referendum questions and two selectmen’s seats. 

This year’s candidates are incumbent Mike Tomko and challengers Rosemary Bourette, Ken F-Fitch and Tom Minerich. The Boothbay Register asked all four if they knew who was responsible for the phone poll. All four responded they weren’t responsible for the calls or did not know was making them. 

None of the candidates have received any of the calls. Fitch was told one resident asked the caller to identify themselves. “My campaign is not responsible and I have no idea who is,” wrote Fitch. “When asked who they represented they would not disclose it. That seems a violation of federal (campaign) law.”  

Minerich doesn’t know who made the calls, either. “I did not originate, receive or have any knowledge of these calls. I only learned about them a few days ago and I’m not sure what was said,” he said. Tomko responded he didn’t make the calls or know whose responsible for them. Bourette responded she hadn’t received or made any polling-related calls. “I don’t know who is responsible nor am I connected in any way. I would never under any circumstances make such calls or authorize anyone on my behalf to do so,” she said.

The candidates also thought robocalls were unnecessary in a municipal election. “I would vote against any candidates who resort to robocalls,” Bourette said. In seeking candidate responses, the campaign calls were described by the Boothbay Register as “robocalls," but the calls were not automated. They were made by a live voice, according to several people describing the calls. 

Tomko called the phone polling tactic unworthy of a local election. “I believe the use is surprising and frankly offensive to gather information in a municipal election. Its potential high cost sends a message that only those with enough funding are able to compete effectively in a community-based election,” Tomko said. 

Fitch thought the polling violated voters’ rights in casting a secret ballot. “Absolutely opposed. No one should solicit a voter’s choice before they have voted and certainly not by an anonymous service,” he said.

None of the candidates were specifically asked about the use of campaign polling calls. Tomko, Fitch and Bourette all commented as part of their e-mail response.  Minerich didn’t expand his answer to offer an opinion on municipal campaign polling calls

Unlike federal and state elections, municipal candidates are not required to file campaign spending reports. All four candidates were asked how much they raised and spent on their campaigns. Only Bourette answered the question about her campaign fundraising and spending.She has spent $390 on signs, advertising, and a "modest” mailer for absentee ballots. Bourette reported her campaign is self-financed. ”I have not raised or attempted to raise one dime to my campaign. I want to be totally and completely independent,” she said. Bourette was reluctant to spend any money on her campaign until she saw her three opponents begin using lawn signs and other campaign-related materials in town. “It became clear a few weeks ago I was up against some heavy hitters, and I would be obvious in my absence if I didn’t join in a little way,” Bourette said. 

A recent mailer was promoting her campaign, according to Bourette. She doesn’t know who is responsible for the direct mailer’s content. “I had nothing to do with it and I don’t feel comfortable with it,” she said. 

Fitch, Tomko and Minerich offered to reveal their campaign expenditures only if all candidates did. Fitch reported he spent campaign funds on yard signs, a town mailing, postcard mailing, and brochures. Minerich would report his campaign expendiures after the election. “I’ve received a variety of contributions from businesses who wish to remain anonymous due to threats of retribution they have received by ‘special interest group members’ over the past year. I’m going to respect their wishes and generosity,” he wrote. 

Tomko had concerns about how the campaign funding information would be verified. “I will answer questions about my campaign funding, only if I am assured that every other candidate is doing so. I would ask how are you verifying it, and are you including categories such as in-kind services donations,” Tomko wrote. 

Bourette had concerns about how the local election had morphed into a major political event. “We are often told if we disagree with something ‘we are against change.’ Well here’s a change I’m definitely against: bringing big city political tactics to our selectmen’s election,” she said. 

Boothbay Harbor voters will vote from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, May 3 in the municipal building. The annual town meeting is at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 4 in the Boothbay Region Elementary School gym.