PORTLAND – For the first time in six years, Cheryl Leeman will face a challenger for her District 4 City Council seat.

Ezekiel “Zeke” Callanan, the former executive director of Heart of Biddeford, Biddeford’s downtown redevelopment organization, took out nominating papers this week to get on the November ballot.

If he turns in 75 valid signatures by the Monday deadline, he will face Leeman, a 26-year veteran of the council and its longest-serving member.

Reached by phone Thursday, Callanan said it was “premature” to discuss the race and his platform until he’s officially on the ballot. “I don’t want to jinx it,” he said. But he described himself as having “progressive ideas,” and he has a history of supporting Democratic candidates.

“My candidacy doesn’t have to do with the incumbent,” said Callanan, a lawyer and co-founder of Maine Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. “It’s about me being in a great position to be an effective representative for the district.”

Leeman, who also hasn’t turned in her signatures, said she will do so Monday. She said she’s never heard of Callanan but joked, “I better dust off the campaign signs.”

Leeman is a regional representative for Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and is often described as one of the few conservative voices of the council.

On Thursday, she described herself as a pragmatist, not an ideologue, who relies on her experience to serve her constituents.

“I know how to navigate City Hall,” said the two-time mayor. “You can phone any one of my constituents. I get things done.”

Her popularity has shown in elections. She’s run unopposed in three of the past four elections, according to the city clerk’s office. When she has had a challenger — in 1996 and 2005 — she has won easily. In 2005, she nabbed 58 percent of the vote, and in 1996, she won with 76 percent of the vote.

District 4 covers most of the area on either side of Washington Avenue. It takes up the entire northwestern portion of the city.

The only other City Council race on the November ballot is for the District 5 seat, held by John Coyne, a juvenile corrections officer. As of 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Coyne is unopposed, according to the city clerk’s office.

In 2008, Coyne, a former School Committee member, defeated Naomi Mermin with 67 percent of the vote to win his seat on the council. Mermin, who runs a environmental sustainability consulting firm, said Thursday she didn’t plan to run again.

“We’ve worked together really well, and I’ll support him this time around,” she said. “He’s been very good for the district.”

District 5 covers the area directly north and east of Back Cove. It stretches to the Falmouth town line.

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

[email protected]