Ali, Batson topple incumbents Hinck, Suslovic in Portland City Council elections

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PORTLAND — Incumbents were upended Tuesday in the Portland City Council elections.

School Board member Pious Ali easily defeated Councilor Jon Hinck and challenger Matthew Coffey to win the at-large seat with 62 percent of the vote, 21,010 to 6,840 to 5,720. Hinck was seeking his second council term.

In District 3, which covers the southern and western portions off the city peninsula, newcomer Brian Batson defeated incumbent Councilor Ed Suslovic, 3,561 to 3,219.

“This is a victory for the collective work of everyone who has helped,” said Ali, who began his campaign in late winter while Hinck was preparing to run for the open seat in state Senate District 27.

“Pious ran a brilliant campaign. It was textbook, he did everything right,” Hinck said.

Ali raised about $13,000 early in the campaign and pulled in endorsements from the entire School Board, Suslovic and Councilor Jill Duson. Last week, he was also endorsed by Mayor Ethan Strimling.

“The center of what I do is relationships,” Ali said. “I know when to give up my interests for the good of all.”

A native of Ghana, Ali, 47, became the first Muslim elected official in Maine when he won his at-large School Board seat in 2013. He is also a youth and community engagement specialist at the University of Southern Maine Muskie School of Public Service.

He has promised to bring the same commitment he’s shown to children to the council, and said there will be a lot to learn about wider city issues. He vowed to take the time and build relationships with the rest of the council as he learns.

Hinck said he was proud of his work, especially in making the city more environmentally sustainable.

“I’m not sure everything I worked for and accomplished on the council was completely understood,” he said.

Batson, 25, was running his first campaign.

“I am beyond ecstatic and beyond excited to make a difference in Portland,” said Batson, a nurse at Maine Medical Center.

With no political experience, Batson seemed a long shot, but said his confidence grew.

“I can say I thought (winning) was possible when I began speaking with people … I saw a need for a new perspective on the council.”

Strimling did not endorse anyone in the District 3 race, but did meet with Batson at the outset of the campaign.

“I found him to be very eager and interested, and his values seemed to be right in line with what I’ve heard in the city,” Strimling said.

In late July 2015, he was urged to run for mayor by Suslovic and Councilor Nick Mavodones Jr. in a meeting at Suslovic’s house.

“My opponent waged an effective campaign,” Suslovic said, “but I am very proud of what I and others have done in District 3.”

Suslovic noted that he had taken some unpopular positions, including the rezoning of the Elk’s Lodge property on outer Congress Street.

“In hindsight, I may have underestimated the forces aligned against my candidacy,” he said.

In the other contested municipal race, Alexander Stankowicz won a two-year term on the advisory Peaks Island Council, defeating Howard L. Pedlikin and John Drumgoole 249-179-161.

Patrick T. Flynn, Stuart Jackson and Lisa M. Penalver won three-year terms on the Peaks Island Council.

James A. Willey was unopposed in his run for a five-year term as a Portland Water District Trustee.

In elections for the Casco Bay Lines Board of Directors, Twain Braden defeated Cheryl Miner for a three-year term to continue representing Peaks Island, 470-271.

David S. Crowley and Charles Burr were unopposed in their races to represent Cliff Island and serve at-large, respectively.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland School Board member Pious Ali, right, celebrates with Planning Board member Lisa Whited at B. Good Burger on Exhange Street after Ali defeated incumbent at-large City Councilor Jon Hinck and Matthew Coffey in the Nov. 8 election.

Brian Batson celebrates his Nov. 8 win in the Distict 3 City Council race in Portland at Bayside Bowl. He defeated incumbent Councilor Ed Suslovic.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.