Mavodones narrowly avoids upset in Portland council race

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PORTLAND — Incumbents ruled the day Tuesday when City Councilors Nick Mavodones, Belinda Ray and Spencer Thibodeau were re-elected.

The closest race was for the at-large seat, where Mavodones defeated challenger Joey Brunelle by about 700 votes, 14,836 to 14,134, to win his eighth consecutive three-year term on the council.

In District 1, covering the Casco Bay islands and eastern portion of the peninsula, Councilor Belinda Ray won her second, three-year term by defeating Matt Coffey, 3,770 to 1,589.

In Council District 2, which covers the city’s West End and extends beyond the University of Southern Maine, Councilor Spencer Thibodeau defeated Jonathan Torsch, 4,081 to 1,963, to win his second, three-year term.

“I’m very pleased,” Thibodeau said. “What it speaks to is folks are still very focused on things government had been ignoring for some time, like infrastructure.”

Thibodeau promised to stay on course in his new term.

“People are looking for a reasonable leader who makes decisions on facts, not pluralities,” he said.

Voters also approved a City Charter change that will require municipal candidates to file campaign spending reports 42 days before a general election, beginning in 2019. Question 2 passed 26,915 to 6,225.

It was a day when voters came out early and stayed late, and city election staff stayed even later. Hour-long waits for voting were reported at Reiche Elementary School in the morning, and polls stayed open until 9:30 p.m. at the Italian Heritage Center off Congress Street following a traffic accident that shut down power.

Election workers then spent most of the night and early Wednesday morning scanning ballots that had been set aside when scanners were slow to take them during polling hours Tuesday, according to staff in the city clerk’s office.

At 2 a.m. on Wednesday, Brunelle held an 880-vote lead on Mavodones, but later returns from Districts 4 and 5 turned the tide for the incumbent.

Unofficial voter turnout approached 58 percent. Absentee voting numbers were also high. By Oct. 31, more than 8,800 absentee ballots had been issued and 5,200 cast, city spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said Monday.

“I was bummed they ran out of ‘I voted’ stickers,” Michael Libby said after voting at First Baptist Church on Canco Road.

Libby voted with Sarah Goode; both had moved from South Portland in the last two months. While not familiar with all city issues, they said it was important to vote this year.

“I think there has been more interest, for better or worse,” Libby said.

Goode said comfort level spurred her.

“When Obama was president, I felt more safe,” she said.

Voting at Deering High School, Ayesha Baye said she wanted everyone she knew to be out voting this year, more than ever.

“This is very important. I am a Muslim, a black woman, an immigrant,” Baye said.

An Ethiopian who came to Maine 23 years ago, she also made sure her children would vote and make clear their purpose.

“We are not going anywhere. We are citizens, business owners, students, and we need to be respected,” she said.

City voters also elected Kim Rich to a full, five-year term as trustee for the Portland Water District. Rich, who is completing a five-month term, defeated challenger Wayne Olson 16,970 to 7,974.

Peaks Island ballots featured races for the advisory Peaks Island Council, where two seats were open with three-year terms. Andrea Kelly-Rosenberg was the only candidate on the ballot; the second seat was won by Devon Kraft in a write-in campaign.

Island residents also elected members of the Casco Bay Lines Board of Directors in five uncontested races. James Luedke won a two-year term serving Great Diamond Island. The rest of the island seats, carrying three-year terms, were won by Polly Wentworth, Robin Clark, William Overlock and Daniel Doane.

David Harry can be reached at 780-9092 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

The evening scene Tuesday at East End Community School was much like all other Portland polling places as voters ignored rain and chill to register and cast ballots.Councilor Belinda Ray greets a voter Tuesday at East End Community School in Portland. She won a second term in District 1.Councilor Spencer Thibodeau greets a voter outside Reiche School on Portland’s West End Tuesday. Thibodeau won a second, three-year council term.Councilor Nick Mavodones greets voters at the Grace Baptist Church on Tuesday. Mavondones won his eighth council term, defeating challenger Joey Brunelle.Mavodones

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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.