Joe Dunne has some strong feelings about Lewiston mayoral candidate Ben Chin and his proposals for downtown property owners. So the landlord made political signs attacking Chin, and plastered two of them on his buildings.
“Don’t vote for Ho Chi Chin: Vote for more jobs, not more welfare,” reads the sign, next to what appears to be a caricature of former Vietnamese Communist leader, Ho Chi Minh. Dunne told reporters Monday he paid about $400 to make three signs.
“The 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 slum lords,” Dunne told the Lewiston-Auburn Sun Journal. “He’s been kind of abusive to me, so I figured I’d fight back a little bit.”
Those signs against Chin, a Maine liberal activist and third-generation American of Asian descent, have been met with widespread blowback.
“This is a very personal attack on us and our family,” Chin told reporters on camera. “We’re expecting a kid in a couple of weeks, and we’re thinking about what is the world that our kid is going to be coming into, who’s going to have the last name that’s up on that wall right there.”
Dunne’s tenants asked him to take the signs down, and some have posted pro-Chin signs in their windows. Democratic and Republican officials in Maine have denounced them as offensive.
“Hateful” is how Maine’s Attorney General Janet Mills described the signs.
“Please be aware that I did not place the sign there, do not own the building and have no control over what is placed there,” the Mastrogiacomo Law Office posted on Facebook. “Please also understand that the opinions on the sign do not reflect my opinion or my views.”
Dunne insists that the signs aren’t racist and took them down Monday at the request of his tenants. He told reporters on camera that Chin and “his ideas, the ones that he’s presenting for downtown here, are more socialist and basically communism. So I just did a little parody on that.”
“I don’t feel it’s the least bit racist,” Dunne said. “I don’t have a racist bone in my body.”
Chin, political director for the Maine’s People Alliance, said the signs have left him more motivated than ever to take on property owners like Dunne.
Four candidates are vying to replace conservative Mayor Robert Macdonald, who is running for reelection. Macdonald told the Sun-Journal he asked the anti-Chin signs not be placed about a week ago.
“I asked them, ‘Please don’t do this,’ and told them 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 told the paper. “The person responsible for that is also supporting another candidate and it’s not me.”
The criticism has left Dunne undaunted. He told reporters he plans to resurrect the signs, perhaps on a vacant lot.
“It is personal,” Dunne told the Portland Press Herald.