Democratic mayoral candidate Ben Chin is speaking out Monday after signs targeting him appeared in Lewiston, Maine, that many are calling racist.
The signs, lined with the Communist hammer and sickle symbol and a caricature of an Asian man, read, "Don't vote for Ho Chi Chin. Vote for more jobs not more welfare."
Speaking by telephone before an impromptu rally scheduled for Monday evening, Chin, 30, told NBC News he was heartened to see the outpouring of support from so many people calling for the signs to be taken down.
“We are not going to back down an inch from going after the people who are profiting off the poverty of our city,” Chin said. “They can put up signs on every building they own downtown, and that still won’t stop us from continuing to make our case.”
Chin, who is half-Chinese, said the signs also made him think a lot about his grandfather, who emigrated from southern China at age 5, fought in World War II and was later investigated for being a communist during the McCarthy era after a business he started became successful.
Chin added that the signs were also symptomatic of politics in America today.
“I think there’s no question that the racial conflict in America across the board, no matter who you are or where you’re from, whether you’re African American or Latino or Asian or Native American, it’s reaching a boiling point,” Chin said. “And our city is unfortunately no exception to that.”
A message sent to Macdonald’s personal email address was not returned Monday evening. Chin said the mayor had not reached out to him Monday about the signs.
According to the Portland Press Herald, the signs appeared on buildings owned by Sullivan Property Management. The property manager, Joseph Dunne, told the Press Herald he put the signs up because Chin has branded him a "slumlord" in the past.
Maine People's Alliance, who Chin works for as its political director, released a report this past summer which targeted Dunne and two other landlords as "three of the city's worst landlords."
Dunne took down the signs Monday after some tenants complained, but said he plans to put them back up.
"My point is that the guy is out there slamming me all over the place, putting pamphlets in people's doors calling me a 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 on Monday. "He's been kind of abusive to me, so I figured I'd fight back a little bit."
The Lewiston-Auburn Sun Journal also reported that Mayor Macdonald requested the signs be removed and said he didn't want people to think he was responsible for them.
The Maine Republican party recently launched a Tumblr and Facebook page targeting Chin's record, but Jason Savage, the executive director of the Maine Republican party, said Monday on Twitter he denounced Dunne's signs on behalf of the party. "No place for that garbage," Savage tweeted.
Fellow Lewiston mayoral candidate Luke Jensen released a statement Monday condemning the signs. "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.