A mayor in one of the nation’s whitest states resigned in disgrace on Friday after a series of racist text messages he sent were made public this week. Shane Bouchard, the Republican now-former mayor of Lewiston, stepped down after his former mistress provided the damning text messages to the Lewiston Sun Journal, which published their contents on Thursday.
The text messages from around the time of his election in 2017 were sent by Bouchard to Heather Everly Berube, who the Sun Journal described as someone who “volunteered for Democratic mayoral candidate Ben Chin while secretly funneling his campaign emails to Republican rival Shane Bouchard — with whom, she said, she happened to be having an affair.”
In one of the text messages, Bouchard seemed happy to admit that “All my jokes are quite racist lol” before offering proof: “What do you call 2 old black people sitting on your front lawn,” he texted to Berube. “Antique farm equipment,” he texted again.
Bouchard also made references on text messages to attending “my clan meeting,” which he would later say was simply a nod to the perception that Republicans were white supremacy sympathizers.
The Lewiston Police Department was reportedly investigating.
“I think my actions towards minorities in this community are going to speak a lot louder than an off-color joke to a friend,” Bouchard — who was presiding over a city the Sun Journal said was made up of many “first- or second-generation African immigrants,” said Thursday. “My actions are very pro immigrant, you’ll find. My board and committee appointments. My outreach. I don’t think you’ll find anything racist about me, period, in general.”
Bouchard went on to call the text messages “racist-ish, not racist comments.”
Lewiston’s politics has been mired in accusations — and now proof — of racism before. Chin, Bouchard’s Democratic opponent in 2017, also ran unsuccessfully for the same post in 2015. Signs mocking Chin’s Asian heritage and featuring a racist caricature of him began appearing around town, the Maine Beacon reported at the time.
The Sun Journal also reminded readers that “[i]n October 2002, Mayor Larry Raymond released a three-page open letter to the Somali community asking immigrants to spread the word among family and friends to stop moving to Lewiston in such large numbers.”
Lewiston’s population is 4.3 percent Black and 88 percent white, according to the most recent Census statistics. Numbers get even whiter on a state level, with a population that is just 1.6 percent Black and 95 percent white.