Death of “Duke” Dulac, Augusta’s barber and political pollster ahead of his time

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Jean M. “Duke” Dulac poses October 29, 1993, with ballots from his barber shop’s political poll. Dulac, who drew national attention for the accuracy of his polls in predicting election results over three decades, died last week. File Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — Jean M. “Duke” Dulac, whose political polls at his Augusta barbershop have garnered national attention for their accuracy in predicting election results for more than three decades, has died.

The political poll of Dulac, 88, of Augusta, in his Duke’s Rotary Hair Salon first rose to prominence when it was the only poll that correctly predicted the upset election of independent James Longley as governor of Maine in 1974.

“No one was predicting Longley was going to win except for the Duke’s Barber’s Poll – it was the only accurate poll in the state of Maine,” said attorney Roger Katz, a former state senator and Mayor of Augusta. “So the press started paying more attention to it, after that.”

Katz described Dulac as an Augusta original, someone who loved his city, Cony’s sports and politics.

“If you ever wanted to know anything politically, you’d find the time to get your hair cut,” Katz said. “He really had his finger on the pulse. I went there once, in the early 90s, for a haircut, and right before me was Governor John McKernan. I picked him up and got my hair cut, and who’s next in line? Chief Justice Dan Wathen. Where else but at Duke would you have that experience? »

Dulac, who died Sept. 7, opened his barber shop on Memorial Circle — roughly where Walgreens is now — in 1965.

Barber Ray Fecteau, 78, of Augusta, worked alongside Dulac for 42 years. He remembers when they started polling their clients in the mid-1970s on how they planned to vote, just for fun, and to see how it went. They noticed that the poll was very accurate – over the years Dulac estimated it was correct over 90% of the time – and so they continued for over three decades, until the store closed in mid-2000s and Dulac moved on to cutting hair at other locations in town.

“We had men and women, both of us had seven chairs and three in the back were beauticians, and we were a busy place,” Fecteau said. “We didn’t have too many (surveys) we were wrong about – our customers seemed well informed about what was going on. We had a lot of people, from all walks of life, coming. »

Thomas Levesque looks at his ballot in October 1987 while Jean M. “Duke” Dulac gives him a haircut at Duke’s Rotary Barber Shop in Augusta. File Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Fecteau said Dulac came from a poor living situation growing up and was successful with his barber. He said the store also provided a decent living for him and other hairstylists, many of whom also stayed there for many years. If you worked hard, you could support your family there, he said.

The barbershop was also known for its elaborate flower growth, bringing color to the rotary, mostly from the petunias that eventually overran everything else. Fecteau said the hair salon was so resplendent with flowers that some people would stop there thinking it was a flower shop.

William Bridgeo, who retired last year after many years as Augusta city manager, said getting a haircut in Dulac was always an adventure. He said he just met Dulac a few weeks ago and was still full of the positive energy and enthusiasm he was known for.

“Within 15 minutes, our conversations ranged from city government – ​​he loved having the city manager captive in his chair just as he did governors, senators and captains of industry – to local history, another one of his passions, to his wonderful family, especially how all of his grandchildren were doing school sports and colleges,” Bridgeo said. “He was immensely proud of his community and through his incredible political polls he brought the issues of the day to the fore.”

Dulac was a regular at youth sporting events, often to support his many grandchildren. He has sponsored many youth sports teams and was an award winner with the Maine Sports Legends.

He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce. He was also a mason and Shriner with Kora Shriners in Lewiston and past president of the Kennebec Valley Shrine Club.


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