Controversial Republican Activist Uses Loophole To Enter State Senate Race

Jul 24, 2018

A longtime Republican activist involved with numerous campaign controversies says that he has moved to Hollis, Maine to challenge Democratic state Sen. Justin Chenette.

Stavros Mendros, a fixture in Lewiston politics, has been drafted as a replacement candidate by York County Republicans.

In response to the announcement, Chenette quickly highlighted Mendros' violations in campaign finance and election laws.

"He doesn't deserve to be anywhere near the state house, let alone the Senate,” Chenette said. “And it's really sad to see that the Maine GOP would nominate someone who, quite frankly, has not lived in the district.”

Mendros acknowledged that he has had a "couple of rough years," but says Chenette is giving him free publicity by attacking him.

“I'm amazed that he's that scared," Medros said.

Mendros has been involved in several controversies, including a York county casino referendum that was disqualified from the 2016 ballot because of invalid signatures gathered by a company he operates.

His company was also hired by Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Max Linn, who was disqualified from this year's primary ballot because his petitions included signatures of dead people and other irregularities.

Mendros said that he moved to Hollis because his daughter is attending Thornton Academy and because no other Republicans would challenge Chenette.

State law does require candidates to reside in their district for at least three months prior to a general election. According to voter registration data, Mendros registered to vote in Hollis on June 13, the day after the party primary. Registering to vote is one method of establishing residency.

Mendros' ability to run in the York County Senate District highlights loopholes in Maine election laws that lawmakers in both parties have historically resisted closing.

Traditionally, candidates running for the Legislature have to collect a certain number of signatures to qualify for the primary ballot. But those candidates can easily be replaced by county party committees if the qualifying primary candidate drops out of the race, which often happens.

That was the case for Eric Stanton, the Republican who originally signed up to challenge Chenette. Stanton withdrew from the race earlier this summer. Mendros became his replacement after York County Republicans picked him during a caucus meeting.

There are few rules in state election law governing the choosing of replacement candidates. In 2006, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court struck down the Secretary of State's attempt to interpret the laws that do exist. Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said Tuesday that the Legislature then spiked a bill sponsored by his office to create rules in 2007.