Council Greens won despite lack of green
Cash not a deciding factor in ’06 city races
By Chris Busby
As James Brown once sang, “money won’t change you.” That’s a lesson most candidates for city office learned this year, as those who gathered the most campaign cash more often than not lost at the polls.
Take this year’s top spender, District 2 City Council candidate Cyrus Hagge. Hagge raised over $6,300, loaned his campaign another $7,475 from his own pocket, and spent nearly all of that in an unsuccessful attempt to represent the West End, Parkside, and parts of Libbytown and the University of Southern Maine neighborhood. The victor in that race, Dave Marshall, raised just $3,474. The third candidate for this seat, Michael Patterson, pocketed $3,123 and finished third, getting about 20 percent of the vote compared to Hagge’s 33 percent and Marshall’s 45-percent margin.
The last time this seat was up for grabs, then incumbent Karen Geraghty raised over $20,000 – about as much as all three District 2 candidates collected this year – to defeat challenger Orlando Delogu.
On the East End, incumbent District 1 Councilor Will Gorham gathered nearly $10,000 in a bid to keep his seat, but was defeated by Kevin Donoghue, who raked in and spent about a fourth that amount. Kirk Goodhue raised the least amount of money in this race, just over $1,600, and finished third, with about 20 percent of the vote to Gorham’s nearly 32 percent and Donoghue’s 47 percent.
Both Donoghue and Marshall pledged to only accept campaign contributions of $100 or less – the legal limit is $250 – and finance reports indicate they did so. Notable contributors to Donoghue’s campaign include former Planning Board member John Anton and current member Kevin Beal (both in for $100), League of Young Voters honcho Justin Alfond ($100), and fellow Greens serving on the school board: Susan Hopkins ($50) and Jason Toothaker ($30).
The Irish pub Brian Ború, a favorite hangout of many local Green politicos, tossed $100 into Donoghue’s coffers.
Marshall got cash from fellow Greens Hopkins ($50), former State Rep. John Eder ($100, and $100 from his wife, Suzanne), and party organizer Ben Chipman ($75). Anton and Alfond chipped in $100 each, as did Donoghue, who himself received $100 from Marshall.
In the race for the at-large seat on the Council (representing the whole city), incumbent Nick Mavodones needed just $3,235 to fend off challengers Christina Feller and Andy Verzosa, who raised paltry sums themselves ($865 and $1,915, respectively). Mavodones, now Mayor of Portland, netted $250 from the local longshoremen’s union, $250 each from Portland real estate brokers Tony McDonald and Morris Fisher, and $100 from former Mayor George Campbell, who works for CB Richard Ellis/The Boulos Company.
Cash made no difference in the Districts 1 and 2 School Committee races. In District 1 (Munjoy Hill, Bayside, downtown and the islands), first-time candidate Rebecca Minnick bested more-seasoned challenger Mavourneen Thompson, even though Thompson raised a few hundred bucks more (over $2,300, compared to Minnick’s $1,668).
In District 2, then incumbent Stephen Spring raised $1,887 to challenger Robert O’Brien’s $1,665, but still lost the race. Spring – like Minnick, a member of the Green Independent Party – was backed by Toothaker ($100), neighborhood activist Carol Schiller ($100), the Falmouth-based Green Futures political action committee ($250) and the Victory Fund, a national PAC that supports gay and lesbian candidates ($250).
How badly did Democrats want Spring off the school board? Enough to convince people like current Speaker of the Maine House Glenn Cummings to chip in $35 toward O’Brien’s run, former State Senator Mike Brennan to toss $25 O’Brien’s way, and former school board chairperson Ellen Alcorn to pony up $50 (in tandem with her husband, condo developer Matthew Alcorn). Granted, that’s not big money, but it adds up, especially when added to the $250 O’Brien took from the Portland Democratic City Committee and the $100 from that committee’s chairwoman, Sive Neilan. Former Councilor Geraghty put in $125.
The Dems really got behind new school board member Sarah Thompson, who raised over $5,000. (City races are, should we need to remind you, officially non-partisan.) State Democratic Party chief Ben Dudley contributed $100 toward Thompson’s run, and Dudley’s successor in the State House seat representing Munjoy Hill, Anne Rand, contributed $100. Neilan pitched in for another $100, as did State Senator Ethan Strimling, Geraghty, City Councilor Jim Cloutier, and former Councilor and Mayor Peter O’Donnell. The state and city Democratic Party committees combined to put $500 in Thompson’s war chest.
This helped Thompson get just over 50 percent of the vote citywide against challenger Teri McRae and Kevin Gardella. McRae, a former school board member now serving as Cumberland County Register of Probate, had raised just $850 by the time the first campaign finance reports were due, in early November. She did not return her second and final finance report by yesterday’s deadline, but there’s no indication she went on a spending spree late in the campaign. Gardella, a Green, raised the least of any Council or School Committee contender – just $132.75 – and finished with almost 20 percent of the vote.