Evaluating Isgro and Lepage’s previous statements as the former faces possible recall

Louisa Goldman

This article has been updated to reflect developments as they occur.

On Wednesday, April 4, Waterville mayor Nick Isgro retweeted an article discussing Fox’s support of news anchor Laura Ingraham, who criticized Parkland shooting survivor and gun regulation advocate David Hogg for getting rejected from his top-choice colleges. Isgro captioned his now-deleted tweet, “Eat it, Hogg.” Now, facing unhappy Waterville residents pushing for his resignation, Isgro has retreated out of the spotlight as many push for a recall election.

This is not the first time Isgro has spoken out against the idea of gun regulation. In an interview with the Echo last month regarding the proposed #Enough student walkout against gun violence, Isgro defended his opposition to both the protest and gun control in general, stating that he believes “this goes beyond politics. I don’t believe our school should be taking a side on this issue anymore than if someone proposed an pro-NRA march.” Ultimately, he stated, that “In the greater context of the national gun control debate, the reality is [that for those who handle guns regularly] an AR-15 has no more potential to be harmful than most home semi-automatic hand pistols. We shouldn’t be demonizing legal gun owners for crimes they don’t commit.”

Instead of gun regulation, Isgro blamed our nation’s violence issue on mental health. “The reality is that use of guns is a byproduct of much greater problems in our society. When we look at the case of Florida not only were there obvious mental illness issues but also severe failures of law enforcement on all levels leading up to this great tragedy,” Isgro said. Indeed, students at area Waterville schools were forbade from participating in the walkout outside of buildings, consistent with the mayor’s views.

And despite some perceived naivete, Isgro is no stranger to twitter. Earlier this year in October, he tweeted a remark regarding the Colby-organized March for Racial Justice, negatively targeting city counselors who were present at the event and ultimately prompting a subsequent threat directed towards all demonstrators made on the part of an Isgro supporter.

“That [threat] was brought to my attention by constituents who stopped me as I was leaving a city council meeting on October 3, 2017,” Laren Lessing, Waterville City councilor representing Ward 3 and Director of Academic programs at the Colby Museum of Art, said in an interview with the Echo. “I reported the tweet and the alleged threat beneath it to Colby security the next day (October 4, 2017).” And although nobody was harmed and the threat deemed empty, asked if Isgro showed any remorse for the panic he caused her constituents, Lessing answered matter-of-factly, “no.”

The public backlash that has ensued since the now infamous Hogg-related tweet has been the subject of much debate. On friday Apr. 6, the CEO of Isgro’s primary employer Skowhegan Savings bank released a statement condemning the mayor’s actions, and on monday Apr. 9, confirmed with the Morning Sentinel that Isgro no longer worked at the company. Such a response has caused many to conclude that he was fired, including Maine Governor and former Waterville mayor Paul LePage.

“You have fallen prey to the leftist hate ideology that refuses to recognize free speech,” LePage said in a letter sent monday to the president and CEO of Skowhegan Savings Bank John Witherspoon, referring to his supposed decision to fire Isgro. The first amendment to which LePage was alluding, however, refers only to the government’s ability to limit an individual’s right to free speech, not a private company’s ability to limit that of its employees.

Such a response contradicts some of LePage’s previous statements, including one he gave to the Echo last month when discussing the aforementioned #Enough walkout.

“I am totally against it [the walkout],” LePage said, reiterating “that anybody in the administration who works for the schools and they participate, they will be disciplined to the strongest [degree], with every ounce of the law they will be disciplined. That is inappropriate.”

Since the landmark 1965 Tinker vs. Des Moines supreme court decision ruled that students do not “shed their constitutional rights at school yard gates”, however, public schools have been prohibited (in most cases) from curtailing a student’s ability to express their opinions.

Colby grad Karen Heck `74, who served as Waterville mayor from 2012–2014, has started to gain momentum in a campaign to hold a recall vote in response to the tweet. She had, in fact, campaigned for Isgro when he ran for mayor following her term, but has now decided that he is no longer the best person to represent the town. Heck has joined forces with residents Jim Chidix and Hillary Koch to file an affidavit, the first step in the recall process, according to an article in the Morning Sentinel. “I believe his tweet attacking David Hogg and his recently revealed Facebook posts are clear indications…he no longer feels treating others with respect is necessary,” Heck said in a press conference. “In so doing, I believe he is no longer representative of the feelings of most residents of Waterville. Undertaking the recall will determine if that is true.”

Mayor Isgro recently stepped back in the public eye for the first time since the now infamous tweet, issuing a press release regarding the possible recall. “I have always been a tireless advocate for you-the people of Waterville-and our record of success speaks for itself,” Isgro said, never actually mentioning the tweet itself. “This effort they [Heck, Chidix, and Koch] have started with their friends in the media and dark-money-funded outsiders who do not live in our city is not simply an attack on me, it is an attack on all of us.”

Despite the Mayor’s pushback, the recall campaign has gained momentum. It will require 857 signatures by May 1 in order for the recall to occur.