Rent control foes, Duson opponent led Portland election spending

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PORTLAND — Campaign spending for the Nov. 7 elections eclipsed the $600,000 mark, with almost half coming from foes of the failed rent stabilization referendum.

Totals from at least three sets of campaign finance reports show Say No to Rent Control raised more than $290,000 in cash, received $34,000 in in-kind contributions and spent more than $285,000 in about 2 1/2 months.

The PAC led the way in raising and spending, while Bree LaCasse raised and spent more than $50,000 in her unsuccessful bid to unseat at-large City Councilor Jill Duson.

Duson raised and spent $30,000, while second-place finisher Joey Brunelle raised and spent about $13,500.

In contrast to Say No to Rent Control, referendum supporters Fair Rent Portland raised $13,000, while receiving $2,100 in in-kind contributions.

Say No to Rent Control reported $57,500 in contributions from Oct. 25 through Dec. 19, including $22,000 from the National Association of Realtors.

As the campaigns approached Election Day, Say No to Rent Control spent $94,000 to create TV advertising with Windham-based Gum Spirits Productions, and almost $9,000 with Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based Red Maverick Media for direct mailings.

Say No to Rent Control also made use of Facebook as elections approached, spending more than $13,500 on the social media site.

The most successful referendum effort was passage of the $64 million bond to rebuild four city elementary schools, which drew 65 percent support from voters. Protect Our Neighborhood Schools, the PAC formed in support of the bond, raised more than $55,000 and spent about $50,000. 

More than half that financial support came from Progressive Portland, which reported contributions and loans of more than $29,000. That includes loans of more than $1,000 made in the spring, donations of $25,000, and $3,000 that came from the Maine Education Association.

In a campaign that lasted about two months, Better Schools, Better Deal raised and spent more than $18,000 in support of an alternate, $32 million bond to rebuild just two city schools. The question received 52 percent support from voters, but failed because it did not surpass the popular support of the larger bond.

Foes of the referendum question that would have allowed zoning changes to be blocked by written objections from 25 percent of registered voters living within 500 feet of a proposed change raised and spent $100,000 to defeat the question.

One Portland was the more active of two PACs, spending almost $88,000. On Nov. 1, No on Question 2 began reporting donations that topped $12,000, all from Maine Medical Center. 

The hospital has embarked on a $512 million expansion that comes within the framework of an institutional overlay zone. No on Question 2 spent all it raised.

Supporters of the referendum did not raise or spend enough to require filing reports, and the question was rejected by 52 percent of the voters.

The at-large City Council race proved the most expensive.

LaCasse had the early fundraising edge, reporting more than $19,000 by mid-July. Duson narrowed the gap through Election Day, raising $27,000 while LaCasse raised more than $31,000 in the same period.

In District 4, where incumbent Councilor Justin Costa defeated challenger Kim Rich and won a second term, the candidates combined to raise $10,700, or about about $2,700 less than Brunelle did for his at-large race.

Final numbers in the District 5 race, where Councilor David Brenerman retired, were not available Dec. 20, because reports from winner Kim Cook and candidate Marpheen Chann were not filed.

Previous reports filed by Cook showed she raised almost $19,000; Chann raised almost $5,300. In those reports, Cook reported spending $6,400, with $11,000 in debt; Chann reported spending $4,800.

Craig Dorais, who finished third in the race, ran a largely self-financed campaign and reported spending $4,600.

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

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.