PORTLAND –  Five candidates have qualified for the ballot, three have been sent out to get more signatures, and the lineup of 20 potential candidates for Portland mayor has been shuffled a bit.

Zouhair Bouzrara sent out a Facebook message Friday saying he has decided to end his run for mayor.

In a brief telephone interview, Bouzrara said he will leave the country in a few months to be with his girlfriend, who is expecting the couple’s child in mid-December. Bouzrara declined to be specific about where he’s going beyond “overseas.”

While Bouzrara was dropping out of the race, a columnist for The Portland Daily Sun was getting in.

Bob Higgins took out nomination papers Friday afternoon.

He, like the other candidates, has until Aug. 29 to get 300 to 500 signatures to earn a spot on the ballot.

Higgins did not reply to an email sent to him at the newspaper, but Casey Conley, the city editor for The Portland Daily Sun, said the paper didn’t know until Friday that Higgins was planning to run.

Higgins is “an occasional freelancer and columnist at the paper” who is paid per article, Conley said, and his column will be “on hiatus while he ponders a mayoral run.”

Three candidates who turned in nominating petitions this week are joining Higgins in search of voters’ signatures because the city clerk’s office invalidated enough of their signatures to put them below the required 300.

The three are Peter Bryant, a retired merchant seaman; John Eder, a former state representative; and Hamza Haadoow, an immigrant businessman.

During the week, the clerk’s office validated the petitions of the other five candidates who turned in papers this week: current Mayor Nicholas Mavodones; City Councilor Jill Duson; City Councilor David Marshall; community activist Ralph Carmona; and consultant Jed Rathband.

Several other candidates who are expected to be in the top tier have yet to hand in their nomination papers, including former state Rep. Michael Brennan; marketing consultant Jodie Lapchick; teacher and neighborhood leader Markos Miller; and former state Sen. Ethan Strimling.

The filing period opened Monday and closes at the end of business on Aug. 29.

Candidates who file before the deadline can gather more signatures if the clerk’s office invalidates enough signatures to drop them below 300.

But it can take the clerk’s office several days to check a candidate’s signatures. For instance, Carmona’s petitions weren’t validated until Friday, even though he turned them in late Monday.

Rathband wasn’t qualified for the ballot until Friday afternoon, after turning in his papers on Tuesday. So candidates who file late next week may not find out that they need more signatures until after the deadline Aug. 29, when they won’t be given more time.

In November, the city’s voters will elect Portland’s mayor for the first time in nearly a century.

Since 1923, the City Council has chosen one of its own members to be mayor.

The election will be decided by ranked-choice voting, in which voters can pick one person as their first choice, then designate second, third, fourth — and so on — choices.

City officials said their ballot design allows for 20 candidates — the current number of potential candidates, with Bouzrara’s withdrawal. If the number exceeds 20, they said, they will have to redesign the ballot.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]