PORTLAND — Less than two weeks before Election Day, Portland’s 15 mayoral candidates continued to differentiate themselves Wednesday night at their second debate in two days, rolling out new ideas and taking subtle jabs at each other.

Richard Dodge, the lone Republican in the race, took the first shot of the night. “I’m the only fiscal conservative in the race,” he said, “regardless of what you hear.”

All 15 candidates attended the forum at the East End Community School, hosted by the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization. About 50 residents watched the candidates debate everything from the role of the new popularly elected mayor to how best to keep the elderly warm in the winter at an affordable price.

Candidate Charles Bragdon said the new mayor will be the city’s chief executive officer by being the face and spokesperson for the city and its people.

Former state Sen. Ethan Strimling has made a similar case throughout the campaign, arguing that a CEO sets goals and takes responsibility for success and failures, which he would do as mayor.

But with Strimling absent – he left early to visit a friend in the hospital – many of his and Bragdon’s opponents vehemently disagreed.

“This is a policy leader position, not a CEO,” said City Councilor David Marshall. “The CEO is the city manager. The city mangager is the CEO. If (any candidate) wants to be CEO, they should drop out of the race and apply for the city manager’s position.”

Candidates also continued to offer specific policy ideas. Jodie Lapchick said she would like to overturn the current law against street vendors, which has drawn the ire of artists and crafts people.

She said the “ongoing festival” that street vendors create is a “gold mine,” and the city should designate areas where they can sell their work.

John Eder continued to say he would push for tax breaks for developers who build simple, affordable housing in Portland for workers who make too much money to qualify for subsidized housing but not enough to afford the rising rents on the peninsula.

Hamza Haadoow said that if he is elected mayor Nov. 8, he will try to lure out-of-state businesses by asking them what they need to better succeed and seeing if Portland can offer those solutions.

Ralph Carmona said 35 percent of Portland students are immigrants – he cited Superintendent Jim Morse as the statistic’s source – and the city must find a way to embrace them and help them succeed.

The debate about the mayor’s role wasn’t limited to the question of CEO versus another type of leadership. City Councilor Nicholas Mavodones, the current mayor, said the new mayor “will not be chair of the school committee and not be superintendent,” a remark directed at Jed Rathband, who has made improving the school system’s program for gifted and talented students one of his priorities.

Rathband agreed that the mayor won’t have the top-down power to make unilateral changes, but will have the power of the pulpit, to build consensus, rally the public and persuade others to make changes.

Candidate Peter Bryant continued to focus on trash collection improvements. And he said he would like to work with the judicial system to get convicts doing more community service for the city.

Markos Miller and Chris Vail continued to champion community input. Vail said the other candidates continue to make promises they can’t keep and the city doesn’t have enough money to implement.

Miller and Vail said the mayor’s No. 1 priority should be to meet with and listen to residents and businesses.

Jill Duson and Michael Brennan continued to focus on their experience. Duson repeated her story about eliminating a more-than $2 million deficit and an 11-month waiting period for services from the state Bureau of Rehabilitation Services through collaborative management and problem solving.

Brennan said that as the state Senate majority leader, he had to get 18 Democrats moving in the right direction on a daily basis, and he can do the same with nine city councilors.

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

jsinger@pressherald.com