Beyond the questions, here’s how Maine’s other big races shook out Tuesday
Along with high-profile referendum questions, Maine voters weighed in on a number of municipal contests Tuesday, electing a new mayor in Portland, sending a mayoral race in Lewiston to a runoff and picking several new members of the city council in Bangor.
Here is a rundown of how some of this year’s local races turned out.
In Maine’s largest municipality, city councilor Mark Dion was elected mayor in a tight race, finishing with 51.5% of the vote to Andrew Zarro’s 48.5% after four runoffs.
Dion focused his candidacy around issues of law and order and said he thought “voters identified with safety” as a deciding issue in the race. One example of this approach was his position on dealing with homelessness. The 68-year-old former Portland police officer and Cumberland County Sheriff favors encampment “sweeps” — forcible removal orders issued by city officials that have taken place since the spring — while his main opponents, Pious Ali and Andrew Zarro, did not.
Data, however, shows such sweeps have thus far been ineffective at decreasing the number of unhoused people.
Portland also had several city council races on Tuesday. For the city’s at-large district, incumbent April Fournier was easily reelected. In District 4, Anna Bullett of the Opportunity Alliance, a nonprofit that helps people with mental health and substance use issues, defeated ophthalmologist Sam Cady. And in District 5, progressive Kate Sykes, a member of the local group that ran successful ballot measures to increase the minimum wage and establish rent control in Portland, defeated Matt Buonopane.
In Maine’s second largest city, the mayoral race is headed for a runoff on Dec. 12 after no candidate received more than 50% of the vote. That runoff will feature incumbent Carl Sheline, who led the field with 45% of the vote on Tuesday, and Republican Jon Connor, who previously served in the state legislature and received 38% of the tally.
In an interview with the Sun Journal prior to the mass shooting in Lewiston last month, Sheline named substance use and homelessness as two issues he wants to continue working on. Specifically, he called for Lewiston to have its own detox center and a low-barrier shelter for unhoused people. In contrast, Connor said he would prioritize going after “criminals, drug dealers and enablers.”
In Lewiston’s council races, there was a large degree of turnover, with multiple incumbents ousted. Council president Rick LaChappelle was defeated by challenger Michael Roy while Susan Longchamps bested Robert McCarthy, David Chittim defeated Lee Clement, and Eryn Soule-Leclair beat Billie Jayne Cook.
In Bangor, two new candidates were elected to serve on the city council. In a race that featured eight candidates for three seats, Carolyn Fish, Susan Deane and incumbent councilor Joseph Leonard won out. Fish finished with the highest vote total followed by Deane and Leonard. Both Fish and Deane were backed by a real estate industry-funded PAC that promoted them as being “pro-safety” candidates.
In his campaign, Leonard said he was focused on connecting Bangor with a passenger rail system and continuing to invest in more housing in the area while Fish expressed interest in examining how other communities have addressed issues like homelessness and substance use. Deane argued that Bangor is at its capacity for how many unhoused people it can provide services to and said she wants to prevent more homeless individuals from coming to the city while also helping those who are already there.
In South Portland, Linda Cohen bested opponent Brendan Williams for a seat on the city council.
Cohen told the Press Herald that she wants to partner with members of Maine’s federal delegation to make it easier for asylum-seekers to work when they arrive in the city and also emphasized the need for housing for all income levels.
In the city’s other competitive council race, Rachael Coleman defeated Jeffrey McDonald. During her campaign, Coleman spoke about the need for housing for those who work in the city.
In other races around the state, David Sinclair, a Democrat, won an uncontested election to represent Bath in the state legislature.
There were also a number of school board contests in Maine. In one of the more notable results, Windham voters rejected candidates calling for parents’ rights and limiting book access in RSU14.
Of the four people vying for two open seats on the board, incumbent Marjorie Govoni and challenger Joseph Kellner successfully earned three-year terms. Challengers Dawn Miller and Justin Whynot did not.
Whynot and Miller campaigned for a parental opt-in process, but Govoni felt confident in the district’s established practice of making a form available to parents who want to let the school library know if they don’t want their child to check out a certain book.