PORTLAND — If there’s something in the city you’re not happy about, mayoral candidate Jed Rathband has a suggestion: Blame Nicholas Mavodones.

Rathband held a news conference Tuesday to take the gloves off when it comes to the current mayor – the last to be selected from and by the City Council.

Rathband said Mavodones has been mayor for three of the past five years and “deserves the lion’s share of the credit” – wait for it – “for the lack of leadership on key issues.”

Specifically, Rathband said it’s Mavodones’ fault that the city had to pay $970,000 to the Portland Co. in June to settle a dispute over the value of the company’s easements on the eastern waterfront; for a lack of affordable housing; and for the dilapidated state of the Cumberland County Civic Center.

The last one is a bit of a head-scratcher because the county, not the city, owns and is responsible for the civic center, although Portland still owns the land underneath it. Rathband said county commissioners have dithered and “made a hash of this” by not acting sooner on the civic center, which will be renovated if voters approve a $33 million bond issue on the ballot Nov. 8.

“The city needed to be there steering the debate,” Rathband said, and “Nick has been the mayor longer than anybody at City Hall and it was a collective lack of leadership.”

It’s an interesting argument, given one of the reasons for the charter change to create a full-time, popularly elected mayor – and Rathband led the campaign for the charter change – was that the mayor’s post lacked the authority to get much done.

Rathband is also defying conventional wisdom that says you don’t harshly criticize opponents in a ranked-choice election, which is how Portland will choose a mayor in seven weeks. Under that system, voters can rank multiple candidates and the thinking is that if you blast an opponent, you can pretty much write off getting very many second- or third-choice votes from the opponent’s supporters.

Rathband said he’s not concerned about that.

“We need to differentiate ourselves,” he said, adding that he sees Mavodones “as the real obstacle to leadership.”

Mavodones mostly deflected the criticism.

“Beating up on Portland might serve someone’s political purposes, but it’s not going to attract one job or get an at-risk kid to graduation, so I don’t know why he’s saying that,” Mavodones said. “It’s a tactic that some candidates use for their own political purposes.”

MEETING ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

Mavodones had a much more pleasant run-in with another candidate Saturday.

Mavodones said he and Michael Brennan were both knocking on doors on Carlyle Road, but didn’t realize it until Mavodones was talking to a voter on a back porch and Brennan came around the corner.

Mavodones said Brennan waited patiently while Mavodones finished up his conversation. Then Mavodones yielded to Brennan.

The two later crossed paths a little farther down the road, where Mavodones had stopped at a house, but the resident wasn’t home. The two were sitting on a brick wall, chatting, when Ra-Lynn Verrillo drove up.

Verrillo said she likes to follow politics and the mayor’s race.

“What a wonderful surprise I had waiting for me when I arrived home Saturday, not one (candidate), but two of them!” she said in an email. “One had parked his car at the end of my driveway and seeing there was no one home they decided to have a seat on the brick wall and have a friendly chat. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to see that.”

Mavodones said the two talked about canvassing, the election and neighborhood issues, since both live nearby.

“That’s how candidates should get along,” he said.

WRITE-IN VOTES FOR BENNETT COUNT

Erick Bennett may not have made the ballot, but any votes cast for him will be counted.

Bennett wrote a letter to the city clerk saying he wants to be considered an “official” write-in candidate. That means the city will count write-ins for Bennett, unlike those for Mickey Mouse and the various plays on words that we learned in elementary school.

Votes for Bennett can be written in on the last line of the mayoral ballot, and this being a ranked-choice election, if you choose to write him in, you can make him your first choice, your 15th-choice or anything in between.

Bennett collected signatures to get on the ballot, but a number were invalidated because they weren’t from registered Portland voters. He ended up three signatures short of the minimum number of 300.

MEET-AND-GREET SET FOR TONIGHT

Three groups will try to corral the 15 candidates for mayor tonight at a meet-and-greet at the Ocean Avenue School.

The event will be from 7 to 9 and use the same “speed-dating” technique used by the Portland Club at a meet-the-candidates session earlier this month.

John Spritz, organizer of the event, said the candidates will each get a couple of minutes to speak their piece and then head to the tables in the room. The voters can chat up the candidates and Spritz will ring a bell every five minutes, gently suggesting they move on to another candidate.

A key goal, he said, is for voters to meet candidates they may not know anything about.

“We’re really trying to foster a sense that it’s best to fill out the ballot fully,” he said.

Spritz, who served on the Charter Commission that created the elected mayor position, is part of Portland Tomorrow, a small group of community leaders that is expected to offer endorsements in a few weeks. It’s sponsoring the meet-and-greet along with the Back Cove and East Deering neighborhood associations.

CITY CLARIFIES RANKED-CHOICE RULES

The city is trying to clarify a few rules about ranked-choice voting.

For instance, if a voter skips a ranking – for instance, votes for first, second and third choice and then skips to fifth choice – the vote for the candidate following the skip will be considered the next choice. So, in the example above, that fifth choice would move up to the vacant fourth spot.

If a voter fills in multiple rankings for the same candidate, only the highest ranking counts. For example, vote for a candidate for second, third and fourth choice and only the second-choice vote counts. And, if a voter picks two or more candidates for the same ranking, the ballot will be invalid when that ranking is reached. If two first-place candidates are selected, the whole ballot will be invalid.

Nicole Clegg, a city spokeswoman, said tabulating machines would spit out the ballot in that case, so a voter could correct it if he or she votes at the polls on Election Day. However, absentee votes aren’t run through machines until after the polls close, so there would be no way to correct any improper votes on them.

For more information, go to www.portlandvoters.com or call the city’s voter hotline at 874-8676.

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