Portland election for new mayor

Portland residents have a larger political responsibility than most other Mainers within the coming year. Not only will they follow the primaries and presidential election, but they also have the duty to elect a mayor in 2015. Currently two candidates—Tom MacMillan of the Green Independent Party and State Senator Ethan Strimling—are challenging the incumbent, Mayor Michael Brennan.

Brennan made history when, in 2011, he was the first directly elected Portland mayor
since 1923. For 88 years, city councilors chose among themselves a mayor to serve almost ceremoniously.However, leading into the 2011 election, Portland residents began to call for direct
election. Part of the proposal also called for an increase in tenure of the office from one year to four.
This change, they hoped,would ensure mayoral accountability to voters and a strong sustained leadership in City Hall. The proposal was passed in November of 2010, and on November 8, 2011 Brennan became the first directly elected mayor in nearly a century.

Brennan takes the stage again this upcoming year to defend his position against two energetic candidates. MacMillan follows behind in polls, but is still dedicated to implement the change he believes is neces- sary to improve the Portland area. A member of the Green Independent Party, MacMillan has never held office before, but has volunteered in campaigns, worked for non-profits, and gained experience as a community organizer. Although some may see this lack of political experience as a disadvantage, MacMillan sees this as an opportunity. In an inter- view with the Portland Press Herald, he stated “People are sick and tired of the status quo… Portland residents have given up hope that their City Council represents them.” He added, “the mayor’s job is to provide the vision for the city and set the priorities for the city and run meetings, and I have done all of those.” If elected, he looks to increase minimum wage in the city and to prohibit landlords from raising rents. Brennan also faces opposition from a more familiar face. State Senator Ethan Strimling is aiming for the mayoral seat after losing the election in 2011 by a mere 1,833 votes. After coming in second in a race of fifteen candidates, Strimling is ready to take the stage once again, but this time hoping for a different outcome. From the beginning, Strimling has received significant endorsements. Most recently, the Portland Chamber of Commerce backed the candidate, a patronage that may prove vital as the campaign continues.

As both Brennan and Strimling are members of the Democratic Party, Portland residents do not hear Strimling pushing for major policy changes. He instead is running on the platform to better unite the council and end conflicts in local government. In his eyes, he can further improve life for Portland residents.

Despite what seems to be strong opposition at times, Brennan is forming his campaign around his many accomplishments in office. He has cited improvements in education, growth in the economy, and an unemployment rate below four percent. More specifically, he launched Growing Portland in hopes of improving the city’s workforce as well as helping set up Portland ConnectED program. This program expanded reading and feeding programs for students who need support over the summer. As House Speaker Mark Eves noted in a letter of endorsement printed in the Portland Press Herald, “Portland is flourishing under Mike’s leadership.” With hopes of continuing the upward trend if elected again, Brennan believes his accomplishments to date will be enough to hold his seat as Portland mayor.

With Democratic Party support split between him and Strimling, the Mayor has claimed, “I think we both know what we are getting ourselves into”. In the past, Strimling and Brennan have faced each other two times. Each time, Brennan finished slightly ahead, so despite the endorsements that Strimling has accumulated, the incumbent Mayor remains very confident and trusts that the residents of Portland will support his aspirations for further growth.

This upcoming election is one for the history books. After 86 years of city councilors selecting the mayor, Portland residents will have to ask themselves if they are ready for the responsibility of electing their next mayor. With choices ranging from a non politician candidate aiming to bridge socio-economic inequality to the incumbent who has already seen success as mayor, residents will have the opportunity to vote on the future of their city. With pressing issues like minimum wage, affordable housing, and aid for asylum seekers being discussed in this election, Portland residents have an important decision to make come Election Day.

Leave a Reply