With just a few days to go before candidates start handing in petitions to get on Portland’s mayoral ballot, Jay York’s campaign to not win is going swimmingly.

“I haven’t been elected, so I’d say I’m doing really well,” he said.

York is the only candidate whose declared goal is to lose. He thinks the city’s elected mayor position is, essentially, a joke.

Since 1923, the city’s mayor has been selected by the City Council and basically served as the council chair and official representative of Portland. In November, however, Portlanders will elect their mayor, who will get the title, an office and $65,000 a year, plus benefits.

But the mayor’s only real power will be the authority to veto the council’s budget – and that decision can be overridden by a vote of six councilors.

So York is staging a sort of protest candidacy, running to highlight that he doesn’t think the post – created by a charter commission and approved by voters last year – should exist at all, let alone attract 18 others who are interested in occupying the mayor’s office.

York said he’s going to have to get busy gathering signatures so he can try to lose officially. He has gathered only about 100 signatures, and he needs at least 300 to get on the ballot.

He said he hasn’t really pushed to get people to sign his nominating petitions, and instead has urged them not to vote for him, or even put him in the top 10 under the city’s ranked-choice voting system.

But he’s convinced he can get the signatures he needs by the Aug. 29 deadline.

“I feel really good about it,” he said. “I don’t want to be elected, but I want to be on the ballot so I can keep talking about it.”

KEEPING IT LOW-PROFILE

When it comes to politicking before Labor Day, voters fall into three categories, candidate Jed Rathband has found.

“They’re very interested, they’re already committed (to a candidate) or it’s, ‘Buzz off,’ ” he said.

That’s why Rathband has gone low-key, with steps that get his name out there without hitting voters over their heads before they’re really ready to start tuning in to the thundering herd of 19 candidates.

Rathband’s campaign is distributing lawn signs, has posted a campaign video online and even has a group of runners covering 5 kilometers every Wednesday night, circling Back Cove while wearing bright yellow campaign T-shirts.

Rathband, who ran the campaign in support of the charter change that created the elected-mayor position, said the campaign now is in a stage where candidates simply want to get their names out before the heavy-duty campaigning begins in a few weeks.

Rathband said he has done some successful fundraising and has a half-dozen “house parties” – in which the candidate goes to a supporter’s home and neighbors are called in to chat – scheduled in the next couple of weeks. But that’s still relatively low-key, he said.

He won’t say how much money he has raised, and campaign finance reports aren’t due yet.

“It’s beneath $20,000, but not far from that,” he said, adding that it’s more than the $11,253 Ethan Strimling announced that he had raised by Tuesday.

Strimling said that met his goal of raising $10,000 by the middle of this month, but he feels he has done so well that he’s upping the ante.

Strimling said he now is aiming for “15 by the 15th” – $15,000 by Aug. 15.

Strimling also announced that on Aug. 15, he will begin a three-month unpaid leave of absence as chief executive officer of LearningWorks, the nonprofit that helps disadvantaged youths succeed educationally.

Trying to stay on the job while stumping for mayor “won’t serve LearningWorks well and won’t serve the campaign well,” he said.

The former state senator is also challenging his supporters to keep track of him and figure out where he’s campaigning.

Strimling snaps a photo of a neighborhood where he’s knocking on doors and posts it on his Facebook page, to find out if people can figure out where he is.

The first photo, of Appleledge Road, stumped about a dozen people on Facebook. The second one, of Olympia Avenue in East Deering, was identified within about a half-hour.

Strimling said he’s taking suggestions for an appropriate prize for people who can figure out where he’s stumping.

Where’s Waldo? Who cares? Where’s Ethan?

SURFING FOR SIGNATURES

The campaign is now on the edge of a potential winnowing-out period. Candidates can start turning in nominating positions Monday, and they have until Aug. 29 to file papers with 300 to 500 signatures. So if the field of 19 is going to be thinned at all, we should find out in a couple of weeks.

No one wants to get left on the sidelines, so candidate Markos Miller said he took a break from some family fun to get an extra name on his petitions.

Miller said he went to Old Orchard Beach with some visiting family members and got to chatting with another Portland family.

“After a pleasant chat in the surf, I ran up to the car and grabbed my clipboard with my petition sheets and collected another signature,” Miller said. “Just some padding above and beyond my required 300.”

 

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: [email protected]