After a highly contested and unconventional mayoral campaign, Mike Sanphy will become the next mayor of Westbrook after squeaking out a close victory over fellow Democrat Michael Shaughnessy.
In a race that featured a split Democratic ticket, which caused some anxiety within the party, independent James Tranchemontagne was not able to capitalize. He finished third across the board.
Unofficial results Wednesday from City Hall have Sanphy winning with 3,231 votes, compared to 3,141 for Shaughnessy, and 2,188 for independent James Tranchemontagne. Unenrolled candidate Jason Jerrier received 455 votes.
For Sanphy, the win is the culmination of decades of service to Westbrook, which supporters have said was his biggest strength during the campaign.
“I’m very pleased,” Sanphy said Tuesday night, following a celebration at Stockhouse Bar & Grill off Main Street. “It was a long, hard battle.”
On Wednesday, Sanphy said he hopes to work with both Shaughnessy and Tranchemontagne during his term.
Despite high name recognition, Sanphy beat progressive newcomer Shaughnessy by just 90 votes, showcasing the strength of both campaigns by the Democrats. Shaughnessy was backed by outgoing Mayor Colleen Hilton and the Westbrook Democratic Committee.
Sanphy gave credit to Lynda Adams, a former city clerk who ran unopposed for Sanphy’s Ward 5 City Council seat, for running his campaign.
“She did a fantastic job organizing us,” he said. “I look forward to working with her on the council.”
Adams said she believes voters saw Sanphy’s “years of dedicated service to the city.”
“While campaigning, I didn’t find a single person who said a bad thing about you,” she told Sanphy following the win.
Sanphy said Wednesday that he had expected a close race with Shaughnessy, given his support from “hardline” Democrats on the city’s Democratic committee. Now, he said, he hopes to incorporate their ideas into his administration.
“I respect them, and I still want to reach out to them and work with them,” he said. “Mike has a lot to offer about the river. James has some great ideas. We need to work as a team.”
Sanphy said he plans to continue Hilton’s morning monthly coffee with constituents, where residents can air concerns to the mayor. The transition to Sanphy’s administration will begin Dec. 5.
Meanwhile, Tuesday night at Lenny’s, off Route 302, the Westbrook Democratic Committee was disappointed by the vote tallies, but remained optimistic overall about Shaughnessy’s campaign.
“If I have to lose, this isn’t a bad way to go,” Shaughnessy told his supporters after the final numbers came in.
Many told him that his showing was impressive given his short time in Westbrook. He has lived on Conant Street for about a year and campaigned with a message of bringing innovative ideas to the city.
Shaughnessy thanked those who helped in the campaign, including Hilton and his family members, and said he believes he’ll be “in the game” in the future.
Given the close tally between the top two finishers, Shaughnessy’s campaign briefly considered requesting a recount. But on Wednesday, Shaughnessy sent a concession letter to Sanphy that said he would not request a recount.
“I want to congratulate you on being Westbrook’s next mayor,” he said in the letter to Sanphy. “This is a very critical time for Westbrook and it is only compounded by the unknown but far-reaching impacts of last night’s national election. If there are ways I can be a support in these times let me know.”
Tranchemontagne, who hosted an election night event at his downtown restaurant, the Frog & Turtle, said Wednesday that he’s obviously disappointed. He also said he was a bit surprised by the support Shaughnessy received from voters.
“They had a really good ground game,” he said of Shaughnessy. “You have to give them credit, they were very organized.”
When results came in Tuesday night, Tranchemontagne said the mood was lightened by live music, with many of his supporters – and even the candidate – taking part in a “community jam.”
“It was a really good way to end it,” he said, adding that he doesn’t intend to run for public office in Westbrook again. “Obviously my message doesn’t resonate enough with the citizenship.”
Unofficial results for all other races were released by City Clerk Angela Holmes at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Democrat Ann Peoples handily defeated Steve Willette and Jeff Labbe in a three-way race for a councilor at-large seat, by a tally of 4,248-2,125-2,025. Victor Chau retained his Ward 2 City Council seat over Veronica Bates, 1,041-564.
Westbrook also voted to re-elect Dillon Bates for House District 35, where he bested Republican challenger James Bourque, 2,846-1,962.
The local election was marked by a very high voter turnout.
At the Westbrook Armory on Stroudwater Street Tuesday morning, where wards 2 and 3 vote, candidates and poll workers reported long lines starting at 7 a.m., when polls opened.
Shaughnessy, as well as Ward 2 councilor opponents Chau and Bates, all reported a line stretching almost to the road. The armory is located just across the street from Westbrook High School.
At about 9:30 a.m., poll worker Jeremy Pelletier had a brief respite from the long lines. He was walking back and forth, welcoming each voter and pointing them in the right direction.
“It’s been busy, and everything has been peaceful,” he said.
Westbrook State Rep. Drew Gattine, who ran unopposed in District 34, said the armory location was busy but orderly. He also said he was surprised to see continued lines for voter registration, given the amount of early voting in Westbrook. That same pattern held true later in the afternoon at the Westbrook Community Center, where registration lines were equally as long.
Gattine also commented on the nature of the mayor’s race, lining up this year as it did with the U.S. presidential race. With three-year terms for mayor, it will not line up again for another 12 years.
According to City Clerk Angela Holmes, roughly 3,800 residents (one-third of the expected turnout) voted absentee or early at City Hall prior to Election Day.
“That’s huge,” Shaughnessy said while he and his son, Avery Shaughnessy, greeted voters outside the Armory.
A Westbrook police officer was also on site, assisting parking.
“This will pretty much be my home base,” he said of the Wards 2 and 3 voting location. During the day, his wife and other son were also at different polling locations.
“When I got here, there was a line out to the street,” he said, adding that he was told lines at the community center, where wards 1 and 4 vote, were even larger.
Later in the night, results from the race were slow to arrive, with numbers from wards 5, 1, and 4 coming fast, but with a long wait between both wards 2 and 3 and the final figures for absentee and early voting.
Following an announcement of the results at Lenny’s and Shaughnessy’s brief address to supporters Tuesday night, someone in the crowd yelled, “2019!”
At the Sanphy campaign, Adams admitted she got impatient while waiting for the absentee and early voting figures, and went to City Hall. When she finally came back to Stockhouse with the results, she said, she tried to keep her enthusiasm hidden.
“I just walked in, looking stoic, and slowly typed in the final results on the screen,” she said. “After a huge pause in the room, everyone realized it. It was a perfect ending to this long election.”
A CLOSER LOOK:
Complete municipal results in Westbrook
Jason Jerrier: 455
Mike Sanphy: 3,231
Michael Shaughnessy: 3,141
James Tranchemontagne: 2,188
City Councilor at-large:
Jeff Labbe: 2,025
Ann Peoples: 4,248
Steve Willette: 2,125
City Councilor Ward 2:
Veronica Bates: 564
Victor Chau: 1,041
$27M school expansion bond:
1. Legalize recreational use of marijuana
2. 3% schools tax on individuals making $200,000 or more
3. Background checks on the sale or transfer of firearms
4. Minimum wage increase
5. Ranked choice voting
6. $100 million construction bond
Hillary Clinton: 5,431
Gary Johnson: 493
Jill Stein: 141
Donald Trump: 3,572
Rep. to Congress (Dist. 1)
Mark Holbrook: 3,798
Chellie Pingree: 5,816
Mike Sanphy shakes hands with a voter at the Westbrook Armory Tuesday morning, just a few hours after polls opened. Looking on is City Council candidate Veronica Bates. Sanphy bested fellow Democrat Michael Shaughnessy to become Westbrook’s next mayor. Bates failed to win a council seat.
Mike Sanphy and his supporters pose for a photo after learning election results late Tuesday night at Stockhouse Bar & Grill.
Mayoral candidate Michael Shaughnessy and his wife, Malory Shaughnessy, embrace following the final tallied results Tuesday night. Shaughnessy and his supporters were positive after a very close race behind Mike Sanphy.
A long line formed to register to vote at the Westbrook Community Center on Tuesday. Westbrook saw a large voter turnout in all wards.
Members of the Westbrook Democratic Committee, including Dillon Bates, left, and Kaitlyn Morse, await results Tuesday at Lenny’s.