LEWISTON — Portland voters will have the first opportunity, since 1923, to elect a citywide mayor.

As the elected mayor of Maine’s second-largest city, and for the sake of Maine, I believe Ralph Carmona would be an outstanding candidate and I have urged him to consider entering the race.

Carmona would be a game-changer in a crowd of conventional candidates because of his sense of the nation and diverse years of experience. He would have no higher ambition than to serve Portland as a full-time mayor.

Be it the voter on the street, the grass-roots activist or a business leader, Carmona’s prudence and temperament, will resonate with the sense and sensibility of those frustrated with politics as usual.

Like many practical and progressive Democrats, I hunger for someone not tied to the unaccountable, pandering “insider” politics that has resulted in a diminishing number of Democrats supporting their own for local and state office because of a “failed state” sense of our political future.

Why else did the leading Democratic gubernatorial candidate get 18 percent of support from Portland voters?

How else could the Democratic Party lose the state Legislature to the other side? Much of it has to do with national trends; but much is also the disagreeable political mindset of Democrats not always inclusive of those interested in the public good.

Any keen political observer does not have to live in Portland to opine that the Democratic Party leadership has created a void for discontented Democrats to elect three Green Party members to its nine-member Portland City Council.

Carmona’s background and his natural political gifts would distinguish him from those who run, and he would energize the Democratic Party.

One need only look at this month’s successful Portland Democratic City Committee Truman Dinner.

His high-profile critique of Gov. LePage’s NAACP comments and mural removal actions aside, Carmona would be the only candidate to have organized a private meeting with the governor in defense of Portland and Lewiston.

From that meeting, he received LePage’s commitment to meet further on issues affecting these cities.

Carmona is also the only one who has reached out to all three leading losing gubernatorial candidates – Eliot Cutler, Libby Mitchell and Shawn Moody – on the prospects of his candidacy.

Portland’s future greatness depends on someone who can tap the entrepreneurial business vision of the city.

Carmona is what Andy Graham, CEO of Portland Color, calls one of those 10,000 critical and creative thinkers needed to work with thoughtful leaders – business and civic, conservative and progressive – who see an urban region like Portland as the creative economic engine for Maine’s future.

If the 60-year-old Carmona runs, I firmly believe he would have a singular purpose: to elevate Portland’s profile in the national conversation about America’s urban future.

He is a non-establishment Green Business Democrat with a sense of how to blend the city’s retail politics with a wholesale vision for its future.

Carmona’s most recent focus has been on civil rights and immigration.

But make no mistake; this is a leader with close to 40 years of public policy involvement with higher education, financial services and energy at the local, state and federal levels of government.

As one who has experienced life in and out of Maine, I am respectful of Carmona’s potential leadership.

I have worked with elected mayors of the biggest and smallest cities, from coast to coast. We were raised within a few miles of each other in Southern California.

I know Carmona to be honest and dedicated to providing leadership to move Portland in a positive direction to a successful future.

In a national and state political climate of economic uncertainty that is hostile toward immigration, the Portland election of a mayor from a racially segregated and immigrant East Los Angeles, with the highest degree of academic distinction, would profoundly alter the political dynamics of Maine, considered the whitest and oldest state in the union.

A Mayor Carmona would fundamentally change the nation’s impression of our Pine Tree State.

His election would instantly put Portland on the national map. His Mainer wife, Vana, proudly claims that he is “my gift to Portland.”

Carmona as mayor would be a gift about a Portland political leadership needed for an urban jewel we hope to see in the future.


– Special to The Press Herald