Correction: Portland Democratic Party vice chairman Ralph Carmona is also running for mayor. The original story listed only six candidates instead of seven.

 

PORTLAND – Shortly after 9 a.m. Monday, City Councilor Jill Duson submitted 481 signatures to the city clerk’s office. And with that, the race to become Portland’s first popularly elected mayor in 88 years had its first official candidate.

Six candidates, from a field that could grow to 20, handed in signatures Monday. Among them was Nicholas Mavodones, a city councilor who was chosen by the rest of the council in December to serve his fourth one-year term as Portland’s part-time mayor.

Candidates for the new full-time position have until Aug. 29 to turn in at least 300 valid signatures to get on November’s ballot.

Duson didn’t return a message seeking comment, but said in a news release that getting her signatures in early “reflects my commitment to action.”

Mavodones, who handed in 500 signatures — the maximum allowed — called it the first step in a long process.

“I’m going to continue what I’ve been doing,” he said. “That’s build a grass-roots organization — I had volunteers help collect signatures — and also knock on doors, meet with people and let the voters get to know me.”

Mavodones said he will run on his long record of public service.

In addition to Mavodones and Duson, City Councilor David Marshall, former state Rep. John Eder, retired merchant seaman Peter Bryant and Somali immigrant, businessman Hamza Haadoow and Portland Democratic Party vice chairman Ralph Carmona turned in signatures Monday.

The city clerk must determine how many of the candidates’ collected signatures belong to registered Portland voters. That process will likely take several days, although the clerk had verified Duson’s signatures by Monday afternoon.

Any candidates who don’t have 300 valid signatures after the clerk’s inspection will have until Aug. 29 to collect more. Eder, who turned in 310 signatures, and Bryant, who turned in about 350, welcomed the early turn-in date.

“It’s helpful they’ve got this, so you can figure out where you stand, how many signatures are valid,” Eder said. “Some residents might think they’re registered, but they may not be. So I’m going to continue to collect signatures until I hear back.”

Since 1923, Portland’s mayor, chosen from among the city councilors, has held a largely ceremonial position. Under a city charter change approved by voters last year, voters will now elect a slightly more powerful, full-time mayor to a four-year term and a $66,000-a-year salary.

The mayor will have the power to veto the city’s annual budget, but a veto can be overridden by a vote of six councilors.

One of the potential candidates, Jay York, has protested the new position. He says he’s running only to point out the fiscal irresponsibility of making a mayor with only a few powers a full-time employee. He has asked voters not to vote for him.

Mavodones and Marshall, who began pushing for an elected mayor four years ago, disagree with York.

Marshall said a full-time mayor can lobby for Portland in Augusta, something the city has sorely lacked.

He pointed to reduced school funding, as well as Gov. Paul LePage’s reported remarks about not wanting to work with Portland on a new fishing port, as proof that Portland needs a full-time advocate.

“We haven’t had the leadership connections in Augusta,” said Marshall, who handed in about 420 signatures. “If we started with diplomacy on Day One with LePage and the Legislature … I think we’d be in a better situation today. We need them to understand that Portland is the central economic engine that drives Maine.”

Haadoow did not return a message seeking comment Monday.

Staff Writer Jason Singer can be contacted at 791-6437 or at:

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