Portland mayor’s unofficial campaign draws $42K in contributions, Progressive Portland endorsement

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PORTLAND — Flush with $42,300 in campaign contributions, Mayor Ethan Strimling said he is confident he’ll have strong support for re-election.

Although Strimling said he will not decide until spring whether he’ll run, on Tuesday he picked up the endorsement of Progressive Portland.

“My sense is I am going to spend the winter doing the work,” Strimling said Jan. 17. “I want to talk to people about what a second term agenda might look like.”

His Jan. 15 semi-annual finance report, covering activity through Dec. 31, 2018, was the only one filed by presumptive or declared mayoral candidates. District 2 City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau announced his candidacy Jan. 9 and has started fundraising, but will not have to file a report until July 15.

On Jan. 11, Councilor Belinda Ray said she is leaning toward running for mayor, but was not ready to make a formal announcement.

Councilor Justin Costa said Monday he is strongly considering entering the race and expects to make an announcement in the near future.

Strimling’s report was filed less than a day after he called for a citywide clean elections fund in his annual State of the City address.

“Let’s level the playing field. Let’s give every candidate who wants to run an equal opportunity to compete and an equal opportunity to avoid being influenced by big donors,” he said.

On Jan. 17, Strimling defended the early fundraising.

“It is important to see the support and see if you have the resources to do the job,” the mayor said. “If we had a clean elections system, I’d use it in a heartbeat.”

Strimling noted 65 percent of his fundraising comes from contributors either living in Portland or connected to the city professionally, with 95 contributions of less than $50.

A revised list of contributions filed Jan. 17 to eliminate some duplicates showed Strimling received $9,650 from union locals in Maine and Massachusetts.

Strimling also said he was grateful for $1,000 from local immigrants in smaller contributions.

He received $3,150 from local real estate developers, less than 10 percent of his 2015 support. That year, he also received $500 from the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, but said he does not expect its support this time.

“The chamber is trying to buy the seat and take it away from the people of this city,” Strimling said.

The mayor, who is his own campaign treasurer, on Jan. 17 said he used email lists of his own sources for fundraising.

On Tuesday, he said supporters, including former gubernatorial candidate Betsy Sweet and Progressive Portland co-founder Steven Biel, also solicited donations on his behalf. But Strimling said he was not offered their email lists for his own use.

In a Jan. 18 email, Biel said neither he or nor Progressive Portland assisted Strimling with the email list.

In a follow-up email on Tuesday, however, he said “we will help Mayor Strimling with fundraising, and we will do that by sending emails to our list urging people to donate to the mayor. The board agreed to begin that fundraising last month, and we did that by sending emails to our list urging people to donate.”

Progressive Portland board member Kim Rich said the group unanimously approved allowing Biel to provide an email list, with an expectation the contribution would be listed on a finance report.

One board vote came after the first fundraising emails were sent, but Rich said the board was already aware and supportive of Biel’s desire to back Strimling.

In its endorsement of Strimling, posted Tuesday on the Progressive Portland Facebook page, the organization said Strimling has “been a leader on key progressive priorities including paid sick days, school funding, immigrant voting rights, and clean elections.”

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

A previous version of this report should not have suggested Strimling obtained email lists from Sweet, Progressive Portland or Biel.

Strimling

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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.