Strimling grabs several endorsements in Portland mayoral run

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PORTLAND — About 24 hours after announcing his candidacy for mayor, former state Sen. Ethan Strimling scored endorsements from 11 of 17 elected city officials.

Leading the wave of support is Councilor Nick Mavodones Jr., the primary speaker at a City Hall news conference Wednesday.

“Ethan is the type of leader we need to move Portland forward,” said Mavodones, who was joined by Councilor Jill Duson, School Board Chairwoman Sarah Thompson, and School Board members Marnie Morrione, Holly Seeliger and John Eder.

Incumbent Mayor Michael Brennan, who announced his re-election bid in June, did not return phone calls or an email seeking comment Wednesday afternoon.

Mavodones said Strimling’s desire to run gave him “a sense of renewed hope and energy” so he could seek re-election to his at-large City Council seat.

Strimling’s candidacy also ended the bid by District 3 Councilor Ed Suslovic to unseat Brennan. Suslovic, who did not attend the press conference, asked Mavodones to read his endorsement of Strimling.

“The last few years on the Portland City Council have been difficult,” Suslovic, who supported Brennan in 2011, wrote. “… The time has come to make a change in our leadership.”

Strimling finished second to Brennan in 2011, with Duson and Mavodones also in the field of 15 candidates. It was the first time the mayor was popularly elected in almost 90 years.

Duson and Mavodones each served multiple terms as mayor when the post was a one-year position elected by city councilors.

“As an at-large councilor and witness to 3 1/2 years of the public and behind-the-scenes decisions and actions of our current mayor, I have concluded that we must choose new leadership in November,” Duson said.

Councilor Kevin Donoghue, who announced last month he will not seek re-election in District 1, also contributed a written endorsement of Strimling.

Morrione was the only School Board member to speak. She praised Strimling’s efforts at LearningWorks, a nonprofit that provides educational services to at-risk youth, as the kind of action that will help improve city schools.

“He cares about the future of kids, and he has devoted his life to making their futures better, one by one,” Morrione said.

Morrione and Thompson later said Brennan’s initiatives, including ConnectED and My Brother’s Keeper, had not always left the School Board knowing what was happening or how they were funded.

They also expressed concern about the relationship between Brennan and the City Council, which Suslovic and Mavodones said has become more contentious in the last 18 months.

This year’s municipal budget process was delayed while the Legislature passed its biennial budget, and tempers flared May 18 when Brennan announced the City Council agreed to postpone its budget vote hours before the council voted to do so.

The announcement angered Suslovic, Duson and Mavodones in particular because it appeared the decision had been made without a required public meeting.

Suslovic, Donoghue and Mavodones have also disagreed with Brennan about how to proceed with policy during workshops and City Council committee meetings.

Mavodones said Brennan is a friend he agrees with more often than not, but said the mayor lacks the skill set needed for leadership of the council.

“(Being mayor requires) somebody who is a convener, somebody who needs to listen,” Mavodones said. “Details need to be important, not just the result.”

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

Portland City Councilor Nick Mavodones Jr. announces his re-election bid and endorsement of Ethan Strimling for mayor Wednesday outside City Hall. Councilor Jill Duson, left, and School Board members John Eder, Holly Seeliger and Chairwoman Sarah Thompson joined him, along with School Board member Marnie Morrione.

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.