Strimling joins crowded field for Portland mayor

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PORTLAND — Saying conversations with voters revealed they want more unified leadership at City Hall, former state Sen. Ethan Strimling announced his second candidacy for mayor Tuesday morning.

“People feel they want to be united,” Strimling said at a press conference outside LearningWorks on Brackett Street, where he is executive director of the nonprofit that provides educational services to at-risk youth.

Strimling finished second to Mayor Michael Brennan in 2011, in the city’s first popular mayoral election in almost 90 years.

Although he said he found his “true calling” at LearningWorks, Strimling said he is prepared to do “the hard work of listening” to chart a more unified course for the city that would produce the need for fewer voter referendums.

“I won’t just listen to the people who agree with me,” he said.

Strimling’s candidacy has been rumored since spring, when a poll conducted by Raleigh, North Carolina-based Public Opinion polling showed him leading Brennan,with former City Councilor Cheryl Leeman third.

When Brennan announced his candidacy in June, Strimling welcomed it.

“I really don’t have any plans to run. I am glad Michael Brennan is running and looking forward hearing what he has to say,” Strimling said at the time.

Since then, a second poll has showed Strimling would do well, but more important to him, he said, is that people are worried about schools, jobs and the relationship between the mayor and city councilors.

That led him to reconsider.

Strimling declined to discuss Brennan’s performance, but said the lack of unity on the City Council is an issue. He said he sees the mayor as the “chair of the board (who) should make the council united.”

He said he is ready “to do the hard work of listening, so people don’t feel the need to govern by referendum,” but declined to say where he stands on referendum questions calling for a $15-per-hour minimum wage and zoning restrictions aimed at curbing development of the Portland Co. complex at 58 Fore St.

Strimling said he would make his views known in the future, but only after he listens more to voters about what they want.

“I’m really interested in the question of ‘how did we get here?'” he said.

Strimling’s supporters have until Tuesday, Aug. 25, to gather 300 signatures of registered voters to place his name on what could be a crowded ballot.

As of Tuesday, Brennan, District 4 City Councilor Ed Suslovic, Green Independent Party leader Tom MacMillan, 2011 candidate Chris Vail, Grant Street resident Zouhair Bouzrara, Anderson Street resident Benjamin Culver, Cumberland Avenue resident Brendan Glass, and Hillis Street resident Karl Nordil had taken out nomination papers from the city clerk’s office.

The mayor will be elected through a ranked-choice ballot process, which will create an instant runoff if no candidate gets at least 50 percent of the vote.

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

With his wife, Mary, at left, former state Sen. Ethan Strimling announces his campaign for Portland mayor Tuesday. Strimling finished second in the 2011 race won by Mayor Michael Brennan.

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.