October 29, 2013

Portland at-large council contest has donors picking sides

Jon Hinck leads ‘Wells’ Lyons in the money race in their battle for the seat now held by John Anton.

By Randy Billings rbillings@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

An at-large race for an open seat on the Portland City Council is drawing the most interest from campaign donors but is falling far short of the funds raised during last year’s contest for an at-large council seat.

Meanwhile, proponents of a Portland ballot measure to legalize marijuana have spent more than $10,000 on an initiative that faces no noticeable opposition. If passed, the ordinance would remove all criminal penalties for possessing up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana for adults age 21 and over.

Portland’s campaign fundraising totals pale in comparison to the battle being waged across the Fore River in South Portland over an ordinance aimed at prohibiting the expansion of oil terminals to handle tar sands oil. Opponents of that proposal have spent $600,000, while supporters have spent just over $100,000.

The most expensive council race in Portland this fall features Jon Hinck, a 59-year-old lawyer who has served three terms as a state representative, and Wellington “Wells” Lyons, a 31-year-old co-owner and in-house attorney for Rogue Industries. The two men are competing for the seat being vacated by Councilor John Anton. It is the only council race without an incumbent.

According to campaign finance reports filed Friday, Hinck has outraised and outspent Lyons by a roughly two-to-one margin from the beginning of the campaign through Oct. 22.

Hinck raised $6,187 and spent $3,666 compared to Lyons, who raised $3,278 and spent $1,149. Hinck had $2,520 left to spend in the final days of the campaign, while Lyons had $2,129 in his campaign war chest.

The totals are in sharp contrast to last year’s campaign for another at-large seat. Lyons raised $14,000 in an unsuccessful effort to unseat longtime Councilor Nicholas Mavodones.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol raised $13,753, primarily through in-kind donations of staff time from the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project.

The total includes $11,062 in staff time and $2,325 on the controversial ads on Metro buses and shelters, as well as $326 on stock photos for ads showing people explaining why they prefer marijuana over alcohol.

At the beginning of the campaign, the Marijuana Policy Project’s Maine political director, David Boyer, said the national advocacy group was prepared to spend whatever it takes on the Portland initiative, but he predicted the ballot measure already enjoyed broad support among city voters.

A March poll by the Pew Research Center showed that 52 percent of Americans support marijuana legalization and a recent Gallup poll showed that a majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana for the first time ever. Support is believed to be even stronger in states such as Maine that allow medicinal uses of marijuana.

“With the recent Gallup poll showing that 58 percent of Americans think marijuana should be legal, we think that the majority of Portland voters also agree and will vote to end marijuana prohibition on November 5,” Boyer said.

The Portland Green Independent Party, which collected the signatures to put the ballot measure to voters, is paying for a website and campaign literature. However, their support totals less than the $5,000 that would require the group to file a campaign report.

There is no organized opposition to the ballot initiative.

Two City Council races that feature an incumbent running for re-election appear to have generated little campaign fundraising and spending.

In the District 3 race, incumbent Edward Suslovic reported no fundraising or expenses. His opponent, Gregory Blouin, missed Friday’s deadline.

In a three-way race for the four-year at-large seat, incumbent Jill Duson has raised $2,710 compared to challenger Gregory Smaha’s $1,300. The third candidate in that race, Christopher Shorr, did not file his campaign finance report prior to the Oct. 25 deadline.

(Continued on page 2)

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