With Strimling in, Brennan defends record as Portland mayor

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PORTLAND — Mayor Michael Brennan on Monday said he intends to run on his record as he faces a new challenge from the runner-up in the 2011 mayoral election.

“It is the responsibility of the mayor to address the policy issues facing the city,” Brennan said almost a week after former state Sen. Ethan Strimling’s last-minute entry in the race.

Strimling finished second in 2011 in what became an instant runoff election when neither candidate received 50 percent of the vote. It was the first time city voters elected a mayor in almost 90 years.

“People said they wanted a mayor to address economics and education. I think (mine) is a strong record,” Brennan said.

On Tuesday, Brennan also picked up an endorsement from the Portland Longshoremen’s Benevolent Association, ILA Local 861, according to his spokesman, Marc Malon.

“(Brennan) stood with us to support good-paying jobs on our waterfront, and we are proud to stand with him and support him for re-election,” union President Mike Fox said in a press release.

However, the endorsement came days after two-thirds of the combined City Council and School Board endorsed Strimling as the candidate who could best unify the city and move it forward.

Four of eight councilors, including Nick Mavodones Jr., Ed Suslovic, Jill Duson and Kevin Donoghue, endorsed Strimling.

Seven of nine School Board members, including Chairwoman Sarah Thompson, Marnie Morrione, Stephanie Hatzenbuehler, Holly Seeliger, John Eder, Anna Trevorrow and Pious Ali, also endorsed Strimling.

Strimling’s decision to run also prompted Suslovic to withdraw. Mavodones and Suslovic each called Brennan a friend, and Sulovic had supported his candidacy in 2011.

But both said there is fractious relationship between Brennan and the council that has not improved in the last 18 months.

“I believe we must support a candidate for mayor that has the proven leadership skills necessary to bring our community together and realize our collective goals,” Mavodones said in an Aug. 19 press conference outside City Hall.

Duson said the city needs a mayor more capable of listening to opposing viewpoints.

“I don’t think you can be in an elected position and not hear opposing views,” Brennan responded Monday.

Brennan and councilors have been at odds, most visibly in May during the budget process. An announcement on the afternoon of May 18 that the final budget vote would be postponed angered Duson and Mavodones because it appeared to them the decision was announced before councilors voted on it.

Morrione and Thompson said a smoother relationship between the mayor and councilors is needed, and that initiatives by Brennan, including the ConnectED program to involve the public and private sectors in education, seemed more of his own work than a collaboration with the School Board.

Noting there was increased debate on the City Council this year, Brennan said policy initiatives – including funding benefits for those now ineligible for state General Assistance programs, getting $20 million to fund rebuilding Hall Elementary School and the enactment of a minimum wage ordinance – have still moved forward.

“I think it is important to listen to people and act,” he said.

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

“People said they wanted a mayor to address economics and education,” Portland Mayor Michael Brennan said Monday. “I think (mine) is a strong record.”

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.