If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 800-871-7741.
The top prosecutor for Hancock and Washington counties was trailing his challenger Wednesday morning in his bid for a third term.
Matthew Foster’s reelection bid was thrown into doubt last week after it was revealed that he was criminally investigated for alleged sexual abuse of a child, and lied about it at an October candidates forum.
Robert Granger, a lawyer from Blue Hill who is running as an independent, had a 1,365-vote lead late Wednesday afternoon, according to unofficial results. Between the two counties, 86 percent of the precincts had reported their results.
The Bangor Daily News reported last week that the attorney general’s office in 2018 investigated allegations that Foster sexually abused a girl over a six- to eight-month period more than a decade ago, when he allowed the then-13-year-old and her mother to live with him in his Ellsworth home after their apartment had fallen into disrepair.
Kathleen Hinerman, now 25, said Foster touched and kissed her in a sexual manner on multiple occasions. She provided documentation of the attorney general’s office investigation to the BDN. The office ultimately decided not to charge Foster.
At an Oct. 12 candidates’ forum, Foster was asked whether he had ever been criminally investigated by the Maine attorney general’s office since becoming an attorney. He answered, “No.”
Foster later said he answered the question because it is against the law to release investigative information, though he acknowledged the denial constituted an answer to the question. He has denied Hinerman’s allegations.
If he pulls out a win, Granger will inherit the highest-profile case pending in the counties’ district attorney’s office — the criminal prosecution of former two-time gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler on felony child pornography possession charges.
Foster recused himself from handling the case last week because his defense attorney Walter McKee is also representing Cutler.
Even before Hinerman went public, the election had been closely watched as opposition to Foster mounted among Washington County officials and others connected to the criminal justice system. They accused Foster of neglecting Washington County prosecutions, and of failing to pursue a high number of sexual assault complaints that police had forwarded to his office.
Washington County officials tried to establish a separate prosecutorial district, but a legislative bill to establish it died last winter in the Maine Senate. Both Foster and Granger said during the campaign that the two counties should continue to be served by one district attorney.
Despite the criticism in Washington County, Foster carried the largely Republican county, so far getting 60 percent of the vote there. Granger appears to have prevailed in more populous Hancock County, especially in the Blue Hill area and on Mount Desert Island, winning 56 percent of the county-wide vote to Foster’s 44 percent.
If Granger is declared the winner, his four-year term as district attorney would begin on Jan. 1, 2023.