Councilor loses when Portland elects a mayor; 17 take out papers for November ballot

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PORTLAND — It will be months before the city knows who will become the first popularly elected mayor in more than 80 years.

But one thing is clear: The first loser is Councilor Dory Waxman.

That’s because Waxman’s at-large seat on the City Council is designated for the elected mayor. Her only way to remain on the council after last year’s City Charter change was to run for mayor, and she said her supporters lobbied her to seek the post.

“That’s not the work I want to do,” Waxman said.

She said she supports having a popularly elected mayor, even though the position is not as strong as she would have liked and will take her council seat.

“When I actually realized what was happening, I voted to support it,” she said. “(But) many folks that I run into around town have no idea that my seat is being taken by this new position and are very surprised by it.”

Waxman, who lives in District 3, did not rule out running again in the future, possibly next year, if one of the other two at-large councilors are elected as mayor.

The mayor’s race, meanwhile, has attracted more attention since nomination papers became available earlier this month.

Seventeen people have taken out papers to get on the ballot for the four-year post that comes with a $67,000 annual salary and veto power over the city budget.

New entrants include Democrat Ralph Carmona, of 105 North St.; Green Independent John Eder, of 101 Gray St., and John York, of 58 Wilmont St., who is unenrolled. 

Christopher Vail, who is unenrolled, said he has been cleared to collect signatures for his nomination. Vail, a Portland firefighter, faced resistance from the city, which bars city employees from seeking elected office.

City Attorney Gary Wood said he based an initial legal opinion on the city’s personnel policy. But after reviewing case law, Wood said he determined that not allowing a city employee to seek elected office – especially in a nonpartisan election – would interfere with that individual’s First Amendment rights to free speech.

“He will definitely be allowed to run, as will any other city employee,” Wood said.

Wood said he has been asked by the council, however, to draft changes to the city’s personnel policy that would restrict campaign activities by city employees, such as barring the use of city email, vehicles, time and other resources.

Wood said he expects proposed changes to be considered by the council either next week or in August.

Wood said if Vail, or any other city employee, is elected to office, they would be required to step down from their city job.

Meanwhile, another mayoral hopeful is making headlines – in his own paper.

Charles Bradgon, who is unenrolled, recently launched The Portland Maine Gazette: Portland’s Politically Incorrect Newspaper.

Bragdon is the editor and lead writer for the paper, which was panned by Down East magazine media critic Al Diamon after its first issue.

In a July 5 post on Down East’s Media Mutt blog, Diamon described the paper as a “political gimmick” – “a campaign brochure masquerading as a newspaper.”

“The most incorrect thing I could find about the first issue was that it printed press releases from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the Portland Pirates as if they were news stories,” Diamon wrote. 

The July 8 edition of the paper contained a front page story by “Lil’ Miss Marie” that resorts to name calling and accuses mayoral hopeful Erick Bennett, a Republican, of acting inappropriately on Facebook.

It also brings up an assault conviction Bennett tried to have overturned in 2004. That request was denied by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Eder, another mayoral candidate, recently received publicity for his efforts with Sensible Portland, a group that has collected signatures in an effort to make marijuana-related arrests the lowest priority for Portland police.

Mayoral hopefuls must collect between 300 and 500 valid signatures from registered Portland voters and return them to City Hall by Aug. 29.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow him on Twitter: @randybillings.