Incumbent City Councilor Cheryl Leeman, a — gasp! — Republican, faces Donkey Party hopeful Stephen Lovejoy in the District 4 council race. (photos/The Fuge)
It’s politics vs. experience in District 4 council race
Underdog Stephen Lovejoy seeks to unseat Leeman
By Chris Busby
Stephen Lovejoy knows he’s got his work cut out for him. He’s making his first run for public office in the District 4 City Council race, facing incumbent Cheryl Leeman, who’s seeking her eighth three-year term.
Lovejoy doesn’t have Leeman’s name recognition or her extensive experience (Leeman has been mayor twice, and served a three-year term on the Portland School Committee before joining the council). But he does have something in common with the other eight city councilors and most Portland voters: He’s a Democrat. Although municipal elections are non-partisan – candidates’ party affiliations are not noted on the ballot and seldom appear in campaign materials – Lovejoy is banking on Democratic support to bring him victory over the council’s sole Republican.
Lovejoy is 55, a divorced father of three grown children. He has 30 years of experience in banking and finance, and spent six of those working on economic development projects with Coastal Enterprises. He recently left that position to take an assistant professorship at the University of Maine at Augusta, where he teaches business classes.
Leeman is 57, also divorced, and the parent of one grown child. She is the regional representative of Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, a job she’s held for many years.
District 4 includes the neighborhoods on either side of Washington Avenue, as it runs from Tukey’s Bridge to Allen Avenue, reaching as far west as Back Cove and northeast to the Falmouth line.
After over 20 years on the council, Leeman said she knows the constituents in her district and how to navigate the city’s bureaucracy on their behalf. “I’m at a point now, because I’ve been on the council so long, that I know how to pick up the phone and make things happen,” she said. “I have a reputation in the community that’s, ‘If you want something done, call Leeman.'”
“I think it’s time for a change,” said Lovejoy. “There needs to be more of a focus on job development, economic development,” he added, saying those things are key to attracting and retaining young people and helping to make housing in the area more affordable.
“I think it’s going to be a very tough race,” Lovejoy said. “Cheryl obviously, after 21 years, has got huge name recognition, so that’s an uphill battle.” However, the self-described “political neophyte” noted that his district is “heavily Democratic,” and said many people in District 4 that he’s spoken with “agree that after 21 years, it’s time for a change, to see if there’s a new approach that will help us going forward…. Sometimes new blood and a new face brings new energy”
Leeman said Lovejoy’s a new face to her. “I don’t know anything about my opponent,” she said. “He’s never been involved in politics. He was recruited by the Democrats.”
“My only fear would be that he’s going to bring the same perspective as other [Democratic councilors], a personal and political agenda,” she added. “And that’s not good for the city.”
Asked to assess her prospects for victory, Leeman said, “I never take anything for granted. I’m running a very hard campaign, and I’m not going to let up until after Election Day.”