The mailers, which criticize Sorrento student performance, prominently misspells the word "children" as "CHIDREN."
Maine First Project sent this mailer to Sorrento voters on Wednesday, urging them to vote for Greg Bullock in the town's Sept. 30 school board election. Credit: Courtesy photo

A school board candidate in the Hancock County town of Sorrento is “appalled” that a right-wing group sent out mailers endorsing him without his knowledge.

The mailers from Brewer-based group Maine First Project arrived at Sorrento voters’ homes on Wednesday. In the mailers, the group uses the national controversy over the LGBTQ+ book “Gender Queer” to encourage voters to support Greg Bullock in local elections on Saturday.

The graphic novel about gender identity and sex came under fire at Regional School Unit 24 meetings this past winter after some parents of students at Charles M. Sumner high school objected to it being in the school library. The board decided to keep it in the library but agreed to implement some restrictions on student access to the book.

The Maine First Project, run by former Republican state lawmaker Larry Lockman, calls the book “utter filth” in the flyers, saying Bullock will “lead the fight to clean house in RSU 24 and restore excellence in education.”

When asked about the mailer, Bullock offered no direct comment on the book controversy. He said the Maine First Project did not consult with him prior to sending its mailers to voters, adding that he is campaigning for “transparency and communication between the school board and the citizens of Sorrento” on a range of issues from books to teacher retention.

“I did not authorize the mailer, and am appalled that they would do so without my knowledge,” Bullock said. “My goal in running for school board is to advocate for children and parents in Sorrento, so their voices can be heard.”

Bullock pointed out that the mailer prominently misspells the word “children,” which appears in all capital letters and bold type as “CHIDREN.” It criticizes student performance in RSU 24, saying it had low English and math performance before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lockman said Friday that Maine First Project vetted Bullock’s record but “never” coordinates independent expenditures with candidates. He said “Gender Queer” “has no place” in the school library and serves no educational purpose.

The Maine First Project sent out similar mailers in school board races earlier this year, including RSU 40 near Rockland and the Oxford Hills school district, Lockman said.

Bullock is running against Newbold “Terry” Noyes for one seat on the board. Incumbent Janet Wilpan, who came under fire over the “Gender Queer” controversy, is not seeking reelection, saying that her goal was to stay on the board long enough to see the construction of the new Sumner school through to completion.

The race is one of three hotly contested local races in the small town of Sorrento, which has fewer than 300 residents. Elections will be held in the town’s community building on Saturday.

Noyes sharply criticized Maine First Project and the mailer, saying the group “aims to win power locally by creating misinformation, mistrust, and advancing a dark agenda.”

He said Bullock has aligned himself with the group, which seeks to deny parents a right they already have: to deny permission for their child to view specific books in the Sumner library.

“The arrogant assumption is that this outside coalition knows best what library books all children should be allowed to read,” Noyes said. “Nobody and no outside group has the right to take those decisions from us.”

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....