Portland School Board member Ali launches City Council bid

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PORTLAND — Nomination papers will not be be available until July 1, but Pious Ali’s City Council ambitions got a boost last week from his School Board colleagues.

“I am grateful to have worked on many issues with my colleagues on the School Board, and I’m moved by their support today,” Ali said at a City Hall press conference March 31. 

Ali, completing his first term as an at-large School Board member, will run for the at-large seat currently held by Councilor Jon Hinck.

Hinck, who is finishing his first term as a councilor, said Monday he has not decided about seeking re-election. He had planned to run for the Maine Senate District 27 seat being vacated by Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, but missed the deadline for filing nomination papers.

“I plan to pay very close attention to deadlines,” Hinck said, before saying his focus now is on the budget process and other council business.

Joining Ali at his press conference were School Board members Holly Seeliger, Stephanie Hatzenbuehler, John Eder and Anna Treverrow, and supporters Lisa Whited of the city Planning Board and Wells Lyons, a former City Council candidate. Lyons ran unsuccessfully against Hinck for City Council in 2013.

School Board members Sarah Thompson, Jenna Vendil and Laurie Davis and Chairwoman Marnie Morrione did not attend the press conference, but have also endorsed Ali.

“I’ve watched him over the years, he loves public service,” Eder said.

Treverrow was elected with Ali in 2013, when he became the first Muslim to be elected to public office in Maine. She said they learned together, and she remains impressed by his determination to involve the public in government.

“Pious has been a true advocate for student and community voice in his service to the school board over the last three years. I know he will carry that same responsibility to constituents with him to the City Council,” she said.

Ali, a native of Ghana who arrived in America in 2000 and moved to Portland in 2002, promised to work for inclusion and transparency on the council. He said he will make quality education, affordable housing and an increase in the minimum wage for tipped workers his priorities, if elected.

Primary elections for candidates for the Legislature are on June 14, so Hinck could have also sought re-election to the council had he not won the Democratic primary race that will now be contested by state Reps. Diane Russell and Ben Chipman, and Peaks Island physician Charles Radis.

“I have long thought Pious Ali brings a lot to public service. Three years ago I took his campaign literature with me from door to door and I urged voters I met to vote for him,” Hinck said, adding, “I think it would be best if he and I were serving together.”

In 2012, Hinck unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat then held by Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe. He was defeated by Cynthia Dill, who lost to independent Angus King in the general election.

Nomination papers for the council election do not have to be submitted until Aug. 29. At-large candidates must gather a minimum of 300 signatures and a maximum of 500 signatures of registered city voters. The general election is Nov. 8.

“We wanted to get out front and get out early, to let people know our undisputed choice is Pious,” said Eder, a West End Green Independent who was defeated in 2006 when he ran for a third consecutive term in the state House of Representatives.

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

School Board member Pious Ali announces his City Council candidacy at a March 31 City Hall news conference. Behind him, from left are John Eder, Stephanie Hatzenbuehler, Wells Lyons, and Anna Trevorrow.

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.