Pious Ali’s bid for an at-large seat on Portland’s City Council got off to a fast start Thursday when his eight colleagues on the school board endorsed his candidacy.

The endorsements, announced during a news conference at City Hall, set up a potential election campaign against his friend, at-large Councilor Jon Hinck, who hasn’t decided yet whether he will seek re-election in November. Hinck had planned to vacate the seat and run for the state Senate District 27 seat held by Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, but he missed the Secretary of State’s filing deadline.

By policy, the school board itself doesn’t endorse candidates, which board member John Eder said makes the individual endorsements that Ali received from his colleagues all the more remarkable.

“Seeing Pious up close for the past year, I had no idea the amount of work he puts into this job. He lives public service,” Eder said in a telephone interview after the news conference. “Pious has earned the quiet respect of the school board. He’s not a contentious guy. It’s more of a quiet leadership that sneaks up on you.”

Ali, who is an at-large member of the school board, issued a statement after his news conference that quoted board members who were present.

“Pious is an extraordinary leader,” board member Stephanie Hatzenbuehler said in the statement. “He has formed meaningful relationships with all Portlanders and has worked hard to understand the needs of individuals and families in our city.”


When Ali announced in February that he would be running for an at-large seat on the council, he thought Hinck wouldn’t be seeking re-election to a second term. Then Hinck’s plan to try to succeed Alfond fell apart when he failed to turn in the signatures to get on the District 27 ballot in time, even though he said he had gathered more than enough signatures.

Hinck now must decide whether he will run against Ali for the at-large council seat. On Thursday evening, Hinck said he hasn’t made up his mind yet.

He said his role as chairman of the City Council’s Energy and Sustainability Committee has involved him in several complicated issues, including whether to ban the use of pesticides on city-owned properties. Hinck said some of those issues will take time to resolve, and he’s not sure yet if he can walk away from them if he doesn’t run in November.

“The election is still a ways off,” Hinck said. “Perhaps my engagement in these good projects will lead me to want to continue. I might run again, but I haven’t made up my mind.”

Hinck and other candidates have plenty of time to decide. According to the Portland City Clerk’s Office, nomination papers will become available July 1, and the deadline for turning in papers is Aug. 29 at 4:30 p.m.

There are two council seats and three school board seats open this year. Write-in candidates have to declare their candidacy no later than Sept. 23.


Meanwhile, Ali, 47, seems to be taking a page from Ethan Strimling’s political playbook by trying to win endorsements from high-ranking municipal officials.

Eleven of Portland’s 17 elected officials endorsed Strimling at a news conference he held last August on the steps of Portland City Hall. Strimling defeated incumbent Mayor Michael Brennan in November.

Ali, who works as a youth and community engagement specialist for the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service, sees nothing strange about declaring so early. Having a full-time job means he needs to get a head start on campaigning, he said.

“It’s an at-large seat, which means I have to reach out to everyone. If I want to be in a leadership position, I have to engage as many people as possible,” Ali said. “I’m going to throw myself out there and try to meet as many people as I can.”

Ali, a native of Ghana, moved from New York City to Portland in 2002. He is the first African-born Muslim-American to be elected to a public office in Portland. He has served on the school board since 2013.

“It has been great to work with Pious the last three years,” school board member Anna Trevorrow said in a telephone interview. “I’ve come to know him as a champion for community outreach and am proud to endorse his candidacy.”