Cake walkers: City Councilor Cheryl Leeman (left) and school board member Lori Gramlich, unopposed with just days to go. (photos/The Fuge; courtesy Gramlich)
Free ride for Leeman and Gramlich?
District 5 school board seat may have no candidate on ballot
By Chris Busby
Judging by the dearth of candidates for Portland City Council and School Committee seats this year, the public must be either satisfied with the work those bodies have been doing, or too scared to take the heat the positions entail.
We’re guessing it’s the latter. As school board member Susan Hopkins remarked to The Forecaster regarding her decision not to seek re-election this year, “People are vicious. I’m sick of it.”
With just one day remaining to take out nomination papers — signatures must be returned to the city clerk’s office by next Tuesday — half of the six municipal government seats up for grabs this November are uncontested, and one of those uncontested seats may not have any candidate’s name on the ballot.
Residents of District 4 (East Deering) are poised to return City Councilor Cheryl Leeman and school board member Lori Gramlich to their posts. Both have taken out papers to run again, and neither has an opponent thus far. Leeman is seeking a ninth three-year term; Gramlich, her second.
In District 5 (Riverton, Deering and North Deering), second-time candidate Leslie Minton is the only person to have taken out papers for the school board seat being vacated by board chairman John Coyne, who is running for council this year. But a source close to her would-be campaign said Minton may not run after all.
Last year, Minton ran in a crowded field for one of two at-large school board seats. She finished fourth in the five-candidate race won by Jaimey Caron and Kate Snyder, but managed to edge out incumbent “Zen” Ben Meiklejohn, who’s seeking election to the Portland Water District Board of Trustees this year.
Minton was registered as a Green Independent when she ran last year, though she said at the time that she’d enrolled in the party by mistake, thinking she was registering as an independent, or unenrolled, voter. Green Party organizers convinced her to maintain her registration, and were heartened when she took out nomination papers for the District 5 seat this year, but now say she may not be able to follow through.
Minton could not be reached for comment this afternoon, but Green Party coordinator Ben Chipman said he recently received text messages from her informing him that she’d taken a new job that will require her to be out of town quite a bit. “It was pretty clear to me that she wasn’t going to be able to do it,” Chipman said. “Basically, she was saying, ‘I’m not gonna have time to do it.'”
If no candidates qualify to get on the ballot, the winner will be determined by write-in votes, said city attorney Gary Wood.
Chipman recalled that happening five years ago, when a water district seat attracted no contenders before the deadline to submit signatures to get on the ballot. Erek Gaines won that seat as a write-in candidate, garnering nearly 500 votes, Chipman said. (Gaines is not seeking re-election this year; Meiklejohn and James Willey, of Caleb Street, have both taken out papers to replace him.)
No additional candidates have stepped forward to challenge Mayor Ed Suslovic’s bid for a second council term. Dory Waxman (like Suslovic, a Democrat) and Green Independent Tina Smith are seeking this at-large seat (representing the entire city).
As we reported last month, Coyne is running to replace District 5 Councilor Jim Cohen, who is not seeking re-election. His challenger is Naomi Mermin, a consultant active in Deering neighborhood and school issues.
Two candidates have taken out papers to replace at-large school board member Hopkins: Anna Trevorrow, of Congress Street, and Liz Holton, a Victoria Street resident active in the Nathan Clifford School debate.