Portland mayoral candidates spent as much as $40 per vote

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Palm Pilots, umbrellas, consultants among campaign expenses

PORTLAND — The 15 candidates who hoped to become Portland’s first elected mayor since 1923 spent more than $300,000 on their campaigns.

Some candidates dug deeper than others to get first-place votes in the opening round of the instant-runoff election, but who spent the most per vote ($40) – and the least ($2.86) – may come as a surprise.

According to 42-day post-election reports filed Dec. 20, Ethan Strimling raised and spend more money than his nearest competitor (and eventual winner) Michael Brennan – by more than $30,000.

Strimling’s campaign raised $90,000, and $7,000 came between the Oct. 26-Dec. 13, 2011 period covered by the report.

But the $20.42 that Strimling spent for each of his 4,390 first-round votes is only half of what 11th-place finisher Ralph Carmona spent.

Carmona raised $14,150, mostly from out-of-state supporters, and spent about $12,800. But he only received 317 first-place votes, which means he spent about $40.38 per vote. 

Brennan spent $11.25 for each of his 5,240 first-round votes. He raised $41,000 through Oct. 25, and saw a big bump in fundraising in the closing days of the campaign, raising about $18,500 from Oct. 26 to Dec. 13.

City Councilor Nicholas Mavodones also saw an uptick in fundraising from Oct. 26 to Dec. 13. After raising $46,000 through Oct. 25, Mavodones raised an additional $10,300 in the closing days of the campaign.

Mavodones received 1,516 first-place votes in the opening round and finished third. He spent $18.98 per vote.

The most frugal candidate was John Eder, a former state representative, who raised and spent only $775 – the least of any candidate. Eder’s 271 first-place votes in the opening round only cost about $2.86, but he came in 12th.

Richard Dodge wasn’t too far behind Eder’s per-vote total. Dodge, who raised $2,235, received 670 first-place votes in the opening round, which works out to only $3.30 a vote.

City Councilor David Marshall, meanwhile, was the most frugal of the top-tier candidates. The fourth-place finisher raised $14,400, and spent all but $15 of that. Marshall received 1,516 first-place votes in the opening round, and spend $9.49 per vote.

Fifth-place finisher Jed Rathband’s campaign raised $30,300, including $2,800 in the final days of the campaign. He was the only candidate to have an independent PAC formed to support him.

The Portland Committee for Econmic Development spent $11,200, according to its 11-day pre-election report. Election Administrator Bud Philbrick said the city is still waiting for the group’s 42-day report.

Also missing is information from Elizabeth Holton, who was re-elected to the School Board. Holton as of last week had not filed either an 11-day pre-election report or the 42-day post-election report.

Philbrick said Holton plans to file for an exemption, because she didn’t raise or spend any money. Failure to do so could result in fines.

In the mayor’s race, City Councilor Jill Duson more than doubled her fundraising in the final days of the campaign. Duson raised about $5,000 before the election, but raised $5,700 in the closing days.

Duson’s fundraising ace in the hole? Her godson, Michael Odokara-Okigbo, a lead performer for the Dartmouth Aires, the a capella group that finished second on NBC’s nationally televised “The Sing Off.”

Odokara-Okigbo performed a fundraising concert for Duson on Oct. 29 at Portland High School. That concert grossed more than $4,700, although Duson had to pay $475 to rent the auditorium. Her per-vote cost was $12.26.

With all this talk about money some candidates raised, there was one candidate who didn’t raise a single penny: Peter Bryant. But that didn’t stop the 10th-place finisher from spending $5,075, which works out to $13.82 for each of his 367 first place votes in the opening round.

Per vote costs for other candidates were $11.46 for Markos Miller, $10.14 for Christopher Vail, $5.32 for Charles Bragdon, $19.19 for Hamza Haadoow and $25.50 for Jodie Lapchick.

Consulting costs

Four of the top six finishers hired political consultants – in some cases, at a heavy price.

Mavodones shelled out $29,000 to get advice from Mach3Media, while Strimling paid Baldacci Communications nearly $20,400 for its expertise. Each candidate paid an additional $14,200 and $8,800 in salaries, respectively.

Duson used more than $5,800 in consulting services from 19 Oaks in South Portland. Her reports indicate she still owes the firm more than $2,000.

Rathband, meanwhile, received consulting services from a few individuals, which cost him more than $3,800.

Neither Brennan nor Marshall hired consultants, but did pay their campaign staffs $7,500 and $7,000, respectively.

Getting the word out

Brennan may have been the only candidate to run television commercials, spending nearly $11,000 for ads on two stations.

But Rathband took his message to the big screen. His reports indicate a $356 ad payment to Patriot Cinemas, which operates the Nickelodeon. He also ran radio ads, which were funded by an independent PAC.

Brennan and Strimling spent the most on direct mailings, $33,300 and $29,000, respectively, while Rathband spent more than $2,300 on mailings.

Strimling was the only candidate to spend money for polling – about $3,700. He also spent more than $15,000 on campaign literature, besting Rathband’s $11,300 and Brennan’s $7,300.

Mavodones spent about $5,000 on campaign literature, while Marshall spent nearly $4,000.

Duson only spent $1,780 on literature, but she was the only candidate to buy campaign buttons.

Marshall, meanwhile, also made some unique campaign purchases: $235 for Palm Pilots, $20 on umbrellas, and $25 on flashlights.

Rathband, meanwhile, made a $333 donation to the Root Cellar, a Christian charity that works with inner-city youth in Portland and Lewiston, to close out his campaign account.