PORTLAND – When Ethan Strimling was outspent by Chellie Pingree 2-to-1 in the 2008 Democratic primary for Maine’s 1st District Congressional seat and subsequently received only 11 percent of the vote, he made two commitments.
First, he’d never get out-fundraised again. Second, he’d never knock on fewer doors than his opponent ever again.
He’s apparently going to meet at least one of those goals in the 2011 mayor’s race.
Strimling, a former state senator, had raised more than $83,000 through the Oct. 25 reporting period, which blew away the rest of the 14 candidates. City Councilor and current Mayor Nick Mavodones, the second-highest fundraiser, pulled in about $46,000, according to the first campaign-finance reports submitted Friday.
“We’re very proud of the broad coalition of folks supporting me,” Strimling said. “It really speaks to the fact that people want strong leadership and want someone who’s focused on creating jobs. That’s why I think people have stepped up and supported me so strongly.”
Strimling said money doesn’t win elections by itself, but it does help. “Raising money allows us to communicate more clearly who I am and what we’re going to do,” he said. “Getting this city back on track is going to take hard work. The old guard doesn’t want to give up easily. We’re working hard for people’s support, and they’ve responded.”
Former state Sen. Michael Brennan raised the third-highest total, more than $41,000.
His campaign-finance report said he still had $14,352 on hand, but Brennan said Friday he’d already spent most of that money. He will debut his first television commercial next week.
Jed Rathband had the fourth-highest total with $27,554. He’s also the only candidate with a political action committee supporting him.
The Portland Committee for Economic Development PAC has raised more than $11,000 on his behalf. The founders of the PAC include Jim Brady, former president of The Olympia Cos., one of the developers that bid on the Maine State Pier redevelopment.
Robert Baldacci, who initially worked with Ocean Properties, the other development group that vied for the state pier project, has worked as a paid fundraising consultant on Strimling’s campaign.
Strimling has the most money remaining with $26,799, according to his finance report. Mavodones has $13,148 left.
Ralph Carmona, who moved to Portland in February 2010, will likely surprise some people with his $13,515 raised, the fifth-highest total. Much of that money came from California, his former residence.
“With a clear conscience, I can say there isn’t anything approaching business-oriented or special-interest money in my total,” Carmona said. “We’re very proud of the diverse mix of small contributions we’ve received.”
City Councilor David Marshall finished sixth, right behind Carmona, with $13,154. Marshall said he still likes his chances to win.
“This race isn’t about money, it’s about people,” Marshall said. “It’s about having conversations at doors, and we’ve already knocked on 15,000. We plan to knock on more than 20,000.”
This is the only campaign-finance report that candidates will file before the Nov. 8 election. They will file another Dec. 20, 42 days after the election, according to the City Clerk’s office.
Candidates also filed 24-hour reports documenting large expenses they’ve made since Oct. 25, which aren’t calculated into their remaining totals. But those 24-hour reports don’t tell a complete picture, city officials said, because candidates have also continued to raise money.
Marshall and mayoral candidate John Eder, a former state representative, said that in the future they’d like to have an earlier filing deadline for the first campaign-finance reports. But Marshall said that would take a change in state law.
Eder said if candidates had to file reports earlier than 11 days before the election, voters would have more time to find out which candidates are beholden to special interests.
“It would give more people more time to research,” Eder said. “I think voters want to know, ‘Who is our mayor going to owe back?’ “
Eder, who raised the least of any candidate, $755, said money does affect elections. “I know because I’ve run and won elections before” he said. “Sometimes people link someone’s ability to lead a city with their ability to raise money.”
But firefighter Chris Vail, who raised about $3,700, said he hopes voters go deeper than just pocketbooks. “Do your research, I’m urging you,” he said. “Don’t let politicians buy your votes.”
Staff Writer Jason Singer can be reached at 791-6437 or: