Both Republicans and Democrats in Maine condemned a Lewiston man's signs attacking local mayoral candidate Ben Chin by calling him "Ho Chi Chin," the Lewiston-Auburn Sun Journal reported.
"Of course we had nothing to do with that," state GOP chair Jason Savage said after photos of the signs were posted online. "[We] denounce this in [the] strongest possible terms."
The signs, which were put up by local property manager Joe Dunne, were lined with Communist hammer and sickle symbols and said, "Don't vote for Ho Chi Chin, vote for more jobs not welfare," a play on the name of former Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh.
"This is a very personal attack," Chin, a 30-year-old Chinese-American, told the Portland Press Herald. "I was talking to my wife about this. We're expecting a child in a couple weeks, and I was thinking, 'What kind of world are they coming into?'"
Dunne has denied that the signs -- which were taken down after complaints by tenants -- were racist in nature. But he did say the attack was "personal," and meant to denounce Chin after the advocacy group Maine People's Alliance (MPA), called Dunne one of the city's worst landlords and described him as a "slumlord" in a report last month. Chin is the group's political director.
"Tthe guy is out there slamming me all over the place, putting pamphlets in people's doors calling me a corporate slumlord, putting my home address out there and going into the schools to tell my daughter her parents are slumlords," Dunne said. "He's been kind of abusive to me, so I figured I'd fight back a little bit."
One of Chin's opponents in the five-person race, Republican Luke Jensen, also criticized the signs in a statement.
"The signs are unquestionably racist, and only serve to damage the reputation of a city that so desperately needs its reputation to improve," Jensen said.
State Rep. Jared Golden (D), who represents Lewiston, told the Sun Journal that the signs were "trying to tie [Chin's] Chinese-American background to the Vietnam War and the Soviet Union. It's completely unacceptable."
Incumbent Mayor Robert Macdonald said he tried to convince Dunne not to put the signs up.
"[I] told [Dunne] it is only going to come back on me and people are going to think I'm responsible for it and I am not," Macdonald said. "The person responsible for that is also supporting another candidate and it's not me."
Despite the mayor's protests, Chin's campaign has suggested that there is a connection between him and Dunne's signs. Dunne co-owns the buildings where they were put up with former city councilor Normand Rousseau and his wife. Rousseau donated to Macdonald's campaigns in 2011 and 2013.
Macdonald also defended Dunne in a column for the Twin City Times, saying that the MPA "are the ones with horns, a pitchfork and red cape. They should only be approached in cold weather in order to prevent getting burned from the heat radiating from their bodies."
Dunne said he intended to put the signs back up, but a rally planned for Monday night will demand that they be left down permanently.
[h/t Talking Points Memo]