Young candidates win big in city races

Vote or Quit Bitchin’ 2006
Local election coverage

Detail from a joint piece of campaign literature this year: Incoming Portland City Councilors Dave Marshall (left) and Kevin Donoghue.
Detail from a joint piece of campaign literature this year: Incoming Portland City Councilors Dave Marshall (left) and Kevin Donoghue.

Young candidates win big in city races 
Eder loses historic state House seat

By Chris Busby

The Portland City Council will never be the same. Portland’s delegation to the state Legislature, however, looks much like it did years before – Green Independent John Eder, the first elected Green in Maine government, lost his bid for a third term representing the West End to Democrat Jon Hinck; and veteran Dem legislator Anne Rand held off a strong challenge in the East End by Green school board member “Zen” Ben Meiklejohn. But more on the state races in a minute. 

Next time you’re in Council Chambers, take a look at the portraits of past mayors lining the wood-paneled walls. With few exceptions, these people are all over 40. Most look like they’ve never been to a rock show, much less a punk rock show, and none of Portland’s mayors over the past 40 years has been registered in a political party that starts with “G.” 

Now consider that two registered Green Independents, ages 27 and 28, are about to take seats representing the heart of Maine’s largest municipality on the City Council. Kevin Donoghue, 27, has won the District 1 City Council seat, representing Munjoy Hill, Bayside, the Old Port and much of downtown, as well as the islands in Casco Bay. Across town, his friend Dave Marshall, 28, has taken the District 2 seat, representing the West End, Parkside and neighborhoods near the University of Southern Maine.

You’d have to go back to the late 1990s to find two councilors of such relative youth serving simultaneously on the nine-member body. Perhaps by no accident, those councilors, Peter O’Donnell and Karen Geraghty, represented Districts 1 and 2, respectively. But they were in their mid-to-late 30s at the time. 

Donoghue bested incumbent Will Gorham, 57, by almost 600 votes, taking over 47 percent of the total to Gorham’s nearly 32 percent (all results are unofficial as of this writing, but are not expected to change significantly). The third contender in this race, Kirk Goodhue, 54, mopped up the remainder – though, notably, he won on Peaks Island, where he’s well known as an island real estate broker and past resident. 

Marshall got over 45 percent of the take in his three-way race against Cyrus Hagge, 53, and Michael Patterson, 41. This seat became open when Geraghty made a last-minute decision not to run for a fourth three-year term. Though Hagge and Patterson both got a late start as a result of Geraghty’s timing, Geraghty said last night she didn’t think the timing of her withdraw was a significant factor in the race. 

The sentiment among city officials and other observers at post-election gatherings last night was that Marshall simply worked hardest for his votes, as did Donoghue – they knocked on more doors, made more phone calls, and sent out more postcards than their more experienced opponents. 

The results were similar in the Districts 1 and 2 School Committee races, though age wasn’t likely as much of a factor. In District 1, first-time candidate Rebecca Minnick, 32, bested Mavourneen Thompson, 60, by taking about 60 percent of the vote. This contest may have had more to do with geography, as Thompson is a Peaks Islander (like Goodhue, she won the Peaks vote), and Minnick a mainlander who lives on Munjoy Hill, where the bulk of the District’s voters reside. 

Robert O’Brien, who just turned 27, beat District 2 incumbent Stephen Spring, 42, by just over 200 votes. Spring’s opposition to weighted grades in high school class rankings, an unpopular stance that led to a rare school board policy reversal, may have been a factor in his defeat, in addition to O’Brien’s persistent door-knocking and status as a neighborhood organization president.

In the at-large races – covering the entire city, not just parts of the peninsula – youth was not a factor. City Councilor Nick Mavodones cruised to a fourth Council term with 54 percent of the vote. Challenger Christina Feller got about 30 percent, and Andy Verzosa had about 15 percent of the tally. 

Sarah Thompson was elected to succeed at-large school board member Jonathan Radtke, who backed her bid. Thompson took just over half of all the votes cast, with former District 4 School Committee member Teri McRae finishing second with 30 percent, and young Green Kevin Gardella getting almost 20 percent in his first run for office. 

Gorham’s loss puts Portland’s mayorship in serious contention, with at least three councilors vying for the largely ceremonial, but politically significant, post. If Gorham had won, there was talk that Mayor Jim Cohen, the District 5 Councilor, might serve a second year in that position. The councilor with the most seniority, but who has yet to serve as mayor, is customarily chosen for the post in a Council caucus held shortly after the election – though custom is not the only factor at play. Gorham had spoken of deferring that honor until 2009 for reasons related to his volunteer work. 

With Gorham out, that makes District 3 Councilor Donna Carr the next in line, and Carr intends to pursue the post for what will be her third year of Council service. Problem is, Mavodones, a former Portland mayor, is interested in wielding the gavel again next year, and Cohen hasn’t necessarily given up the idea of extending his reign. Donoghue and Marshall are in for a crash course in city politics over the next couple weeks, as councilors jockey for influence over the mayorship and their preferred committee assignments. 

Though both the Council and School Committee races are officially non-partisan, party politics has played a big role of late on the school board, and may well again when that body caucuses to choose leadership next week. The board’s four-to-five Green-to-Dem ratio didn’t change with yesterday’s election – Spring lost but Minnick, co-chair with Donoghue of the Greens’ city political committee, won. Meiklejohn, now the board’s most senior member, is gunning for the board chairmanship. His success or failure in that effort could well be a sign of how partisan the new board will be. 

Meiklejohn came within striking distance of denying Anne Rand a ninth term in Augusta, collecting 43 percent of the vote to Rand’s 57 – a difference of about 400 votes in District 120, which includes the East End and most of downtown. Rand now returns to the House of Representatives, where she began her lengthy run in state government two decades ago. 

Eder’s four-year run as the state’s first and only Green lawmaker ended in a close contest with Hinck, a Donkey Partier with a strong environmental record and similarly liberal views on social issues. The unofficial results in District 118 gave Hinck the edge by just over 100 votes – 1,630 to 1,532, or about 51.5 percent to 48.5 percent. This will be Hinck’s first term in Augusta, though he’s already had ample experience lobbying and working with state legislators on eco-issues. 

Veteran Dem legislator Herb Adams nearly lost his seat representing Parkside and Bayside this year. Before the absentee ballots were counted, Adams led Green challenger Matt Reading by a handful of votes, less than 10. But his lead widened considerably when the absentees were tallied, and Adams finished with over 150 more votes than Reading, a first-time candidate. Conservative Republican Jason LaVoie got creamed in District 119, taking about 8 percent of the vote.

There were no big surprises in the off-peninsula House contests or the state Senate races, where every Democrat won handily except District 113 incumbent John Brautigam. Brautigam was in a close race against Republican David Elowitch, who nearly defeated him three years ago, but ultimately won a second term. 

Longtime legislator Joe Brannigan is on his way back to the state Senate after his latest stint in the House (he’s already got four House and four Senate terms from last century on his resume). He led Republican challenger David Fernald 70-30 in Portland’s part of District 9 (the district also includes part of Westbrook, but Fernald would have to have gotten every Westbrook vote and then some to make this one close).

Portland’s other state Senator, Ethan Strimling, also won handily, with over 67 percent of the vote to GOP challenger David Babin’s 18 percent and newcomer Green candidate Kelsey Perchinski’s 14-percent take. 

Democratic State Rep. Boyd Marley rolled over Republican Sharon Forbis in District 114; Dem Party leader Glenn Cummings crushed Green Murrough O’Brien and Melinda Loring of the Elephant Party in District 115; Charlie Harlow made quick work of GOP contender Jan Gauger in District 116; and Anne Haskell cruised to victory over Green John Safarik and the GOP’s David Pelletier in District 117.

Democrats maintained majorities in both the state House and Senate, and retained the Blaine House. With 85-percent of precincts reporting, Democratic Gov. John Baldacci was nearly 10 percentage points ahead of his nearest challenger, Republican Chandler Woodcock, and had claimed victory. Independent Barbara Merrill was third with just over 21 percent, and Green Pat LaMarche had almost 10 percent. Independent Phillip Morris NaPier Thu Peoples Hero hadn’t broken the 1 percent mark. 

Portland voters gave Baldacci just over 50 percent of their votes, with Merrill second (18 percent of Portland) and Woodcock third (16 percent). LaMarche got 14 percent of the Forest City vote, and NaPier half a percentage.

The statewide citizens’ initiative known as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, went down to defeat statewide by a 55-45 margin. Portland voters rejected it 65-35. The ballot question asking Maine voters to clarify the rules for submission of citizen initiatives, Question 2, was approved 55-45 statewide and citywide. 

Portlanders helped U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe and Congressman Tom Allen retain their seats. Snowe had 73 percent of the statewide total with most precincts reporting, and Allen 61 percent in Maine’s First Congressional District. In Portland, Snowe took 57 percent to Dem challenger Jean Hay Bright’s 35 percent and independent Bill Slavick’s 7 percent. Allen got 73 percent of Portland’s tally, with GOP challenger Darlene Curley taking 17 percent and independent Dexter Kamilewicz about 8 percent in Portland.

In Cumberland County races, incumbent Sheriff Mark Dion handily defeated Republican challenger Edward “Ted” Blais. Portlanders supported Dion by a three-to-one margin. Democratic County Treasurer Diane Gurney won her race against a challenger, John Ridge, who vowed to eliminate the largely redundant position if elected. Democratic candidate for Register of Deeds, Pam Lovely, also won. Both Lovely and Gurney took the vote in Portland by wide margins.

Though Portlanders didn’t vote for the County Commissioner seat representing the northern part of Cumberland County (District 3), a former Portlander won that race. Democrat Malory Shaughnessy, formerly an organizer with the Bayside Neighborhood Association, defeated Republican Al Austin.