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Belle race reportedly spurs confrontations

By Matt Murphy, Local government writer

Belle’s three-way race for mayor is causing some tension between two of the candidates.

A few residents, a business owner and one of the mayoral candidates, David Fletcher, have said current mayor Buck Chestnut and his supporters have been confronting Belle residents who have yard signs supporting Fletcher. Fletcher also said Chestnut has been making campaign calls from the town phone.

But Chestnut said he hasn’t done anything unethical.

Fletcher said last week he received calls from supporters who said Chestnut and his supporters have asked that Fletcher’s campaign signs be taken down from private homes. He also said he has heard from a handful of residents that Chestnut was making calls from town offices asking residents to vote for him.

“It’s been a battle,” he said.

Fletcher said last week he was considering filing a complaint with the state Ethics Commission, but hadn’t decided.

Chestnut, meanwhile, denies any wrongdoing. He said he knows of Fletcher’s concerns.

“My answer to him is, ‘Do what you have to do,” Chestnut said.

One incident, caught on video, concerns the Mario’s Pizza shop on DuPont Avenue.

In the video, a woman – identified by a store employee as Nancy Chestnut, the mayor’s wife – can be seen standing in the doorway of the store and pointing to Fletcher campaign signs in the store window.

The video lacks sound,. but store employees said Mrs. Chestnut identified herself as a representative of the town recreation committee and said that as long as Fletcher signs remained in the window, the town would not buy pizza from that business.

Dale Burger, a co-owner of Mario’s, said the incident occurred April 16.

Burger said his employee told him, “a lady from the recreation committee came in and said the town council wasn’t going to buy any more pizza anymore as long as there was a Dave Fletcher sign in the window.”

Burger said he didn’t plan on removing the signs, which are in both windows in either side of the shop’s doorway.

“After that, why would I take them back down?” he said. “We’ve had a good relationship with him until this election thing.”

Burger said he wants his business to be a place community members can post information about community events. He said Fletcher contacted him to ask about displaying signs at his store, and said if Chestnut would have contacted him, he likely would have allowed Chestnut’s signs to be displayed as well.

“Dave called and asked if he could put a sign up in here,” he said. “Dave’s the only one that’s called.”

Chestnut himself was not a participant in the incident at Mario’s. He said he doesn’t want to cause uproar in town.

“There’s been a lot of talk,” he said. “I’m not going to be controversial about it. I have nothing to be ashamed of.”

Fletcher said he doesn’t want to run a negative campaign, and said he has mellowed in recent years.

“I don’t want to upend the race here,” he said. “Everybody asks when the old Fletcher is coming out ... now, I’ve settled down a whole lot.”


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