PORTLAND — Wellington “Wells” Lyons has more than money going for him in his bid to unseat five-term City Councilor Nicholas Mavodones Jr.

He has endorsements from two of Mavodones’ peers, councilors Kevin Donoghue and David Marshall. The two councilors, members of the Green Independent Party, announced their support for Lyons on Tuesday, largely because he’s a progressive Democrat who’s more likely to back the Green agenda.

It’s unusual for councilors to back a challenger so vocally, and the endorsements reveal how Portland’s municipal elections aren’t as nonpartisan as they appear.

Lyons is running a pro-business, progressive platform in the race for the at-large seat, so the endorsements from two of the most progressive councilors could boost his campaign, especially on the peninsula, whose neighborhoods are represented by Donoghue and Marshall.

“I am honored to have the backing of two well-established council members,” Lyons said in a written statement. “This campaign has been about representing every part of Portland, and we’re extremely happy to receive endorsements from our leaders representing Portland’s peninsula.”

The most recent campaign finance reports, covering donations through Oct. 23, show that Lyons has raised more than $14,000, far exceeding Mavodones’ $650.

Throughout his campaign, Lyons has promised to be a “responsive” councilor. At a recent forum hosted by the Portland Community Chamber, a businessman pressed Mavodones, citing a lack of outreach to the business community.

Donoghue and Marshall, who is running for his third term in District 2 against Shane Boyington, said Lyons would be a responsive and active representative.

“He has the energy and aptitude to both serve his constituents and support his colleagues in complex policy work,” wrote Donoghue, who is seeking his third term in District 1 against Justin Benjamin Pollard. “Moreover, I believe Wells is a ready partner in promoting the goals that are most important to residents in District 1.”

Marshall noted the energy of the Lyons campaign and the message of promoting transportation and technology.

Lyons, who has been endorsed by the Maine League of Young Voters and the Progressive Majority, a national group promoting progressive local-level candidates, has proposed providing free wireless Internet access downtown, more bike lanes and better public transportation.

“It is exciting to see the energetic campaign of Wells Lyons for City Council to emerge this fall,” said Marshall, who donated $20 to the campaign. “It is clear that Wells Lyons is the innovative and responsive candidate that residents of Portland deserve.”

Mavodones, who has been endorsed by the Portland Education Association, did not return calls or emails seeking comment.

Councilor John Anton, who was elected in 2007 as a Green Party candidate but is now unenrolled, has contributed $350 each to Donoghue and Marshall, but has not donated in the at-large race.

Councilor Cheryl Leeman was surprised to hear that Donoghue and Marshall had publicly endorsed Lyons.

Leeman said councilors in the past have worked behind the scenes to help other candidates, but a public announcement can polarize the council.

“I think it’s a bad idea,” she said. “You don’t see that very often.”

She said it’s within a councilor’s right to endorse, and she doesn’t believe that Mavodones will take it personally.

In last year’s mayoral election, endorsements and coalition building were strategies for surviving the ranked-choice voting and instant runoff process.

John Eder asked his supporters to vote for Ethan Strimling as their second choice, while Marshall joined forces with Jed Rathband and Markos Miller.

Leeman, who is finishing her 28th year on the council, said she publicly endorsed a candidate once, but she couldn’t recall who it was.

“He didn’t win,” she said. “I had to work with the other person. It was a tense situation until we were able to put it behind us.”

Councilors endorsed Strimling, a young progressive candidate, in 1999 when he ran against longtime Councilor Philip “Jack” Dawson.

Strimling was endorsed by four progressive councilors who were constantly on the losing end of 5-4 votes.

“That campaign was a struggle for progressive power,” Strimling said. “If you’re a newcomer, you want to get folks who are establishment supporting you because it builds legitimacy for your campaign.”

Dawson won the election by 24 votes. Strimling requested a recount, which he was poised to win because the councilors were ready to award him 35 disputed ballots. But Strimling ultimately withdrew, leaving behind an even more polarized council.

The situation showed a power struggle between progressive and old-school Democrats.

That dynamic appears to be playing out on Munjoy Hill.

Pollard was persuaded to drop his write-in candidacy for the U.S. Senate by state Rep. Diane Russell, a Democrat, to focus on the council race.

Pollard said he was told that many Democrats on Munjoy Hill wanted a Democrat on the council, even though it is a nonpartisan position.

Russell said she couldn’t recall the exact conversation, which occurred when the two were walking their dogs. She said it had nothing to do with Democrats versus Greens and more to do with encouraging Pollard to pursue a more achievable goal than U.S. Senate.

Russell acknowledged that she is supporting Pollard over Donoghue in District 1.

“I think he brings very specific ideas,” Russell said. “That’s not to take anything away from the accomplishments of Kevin Donoghue.”

Staff Writer Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

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Twitter: @randybillings