Several Portland area business people and interest groups with stakes in the mayor’s race and other city concerns are behind a poll testing response to potential mayoral candidates and economic and other issues before the City Council.

Bob Baldacci, a principal of the Portland-based Baldacci Group, which owns communications, consulting, real estate development and hospitality businesses, confirmed Wednesday that he and four or five other area business people hired Public Policy Polling, a polling firm based in Raleigh, North Carolina, to conduct the poll. The results will not be made public.

“There were a few business people and others who were interested in taking a poll,” Baldacci said, emphasizing that it is not associated with his business. “We were interested to see where people were at vis-a-vis a certain candidate. … It’s not just the mayor’s race – there are other issues as well.”

Those other issues include a controversial proposal to rezone 10 acres of land on the Eastern Waterfront and efforts to set a citywide minimum wage.

So far, the mayoral race has not attracted much interest compared to 2011, when the first citywide vote for the post in 88 years drew a field of 15 candidates. Nomination papers are not available until June 30, but by this time in 2011, a handful of candidates had already declared.

Incumbent Mayor Michael Brennan has said he hasn’t decided whether to seek re-election. Former City Councilor Cheryl Leeman, who served 30 years as the District 4 councilor, has said she is “strongly considering” a run. Former state legislator Ethan Strimling, executive director of a local nonprofit and a political analyst, said he has no plans to run, despite rumors to the contrary.

The only person so far to publicly declare his candidacy is Michael Anthony, who did so in a nine-minute YouTube video in which he describes himself as a revolutionary who has no chance of winning. Anthony, who says he has been homeless for four years, says he wants to advocate for better treatment of the poor and the homeless.

Baldacci said he didn’t know details about the questions asked in the poll or when it was conducted.

“This is a private poll done for our own use, as well as clients and some others who also paid for the poll who have an interest in certain questions,” he said.

The Press Herald was provided a rough transcript of questions in the automated poll by a person polled Tuesday night and supported by others who had heard about it. Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling, declined to say whether the transcript was accurate, saying in an email, “We can’t comment on any polling commissioned by private clients.”

According to the transcript, the poll asks callers to choose their first and second choices among Brennan, Strimling and Leeman – a nod to the instant runoff voting process, where voters rank candidates in order of preference.

Leeman said she was not involved in the poll but would be interested in seeing the results.

“I wasn’t aware of it until several people told me,” Leeman said.

Brennan said he wasn’t involved with the poll and that his wife was polled on Monday. “I’m a little surprised at the timing. If someone was polling I would think they would wait until later in the season,” he said.

Strimling said in an email that he was polled on Sunday night and that he did not pay for or commission the poll.

During his 2011 mayoral campaign, Strimling hired Baldacci Communications to help his campaign and used Public Policy Polling to conduct automated phone polls. He lost to Brennan by 1,900 votes.

In 2014, Strimling added a question testing his favorability to a Public Policy Polling survey commissioned by Baldacci Communications about the controversial sale of Congress Square Park. That poll information was not made public.

In addition to the mayor’s race, the new poll asked people to rate the strongest arguments for and against increasing the minimum wage, which has been $7.50 an hour since 2009. The poll asked people whether they supported a $15-an-hour minimum, the level called for by the Portland Green Independent Committee, which wants its proposal to go to a citywide referendum, according to the respondent. Brennan has introduced his own minimum wage proposal, endorsed by the City Council’s Finance Committee on April 16, that would require Portland employers to pay at least $8.75 an hour starting in January, with increases of 50 cents an hour in 2018 and 2020.


The poll also asks about a developer’s request to rezone a 10-acre waterfront parcel at 58 Fore St., formerly the Portland Co., which is currently pending before the council. The rezoning request would allow local developers to build taller buildings and allow a wider array of uses, including residential. The request has faced strong opposition from some Munjoy Hill residents, who fear the project would block views of the ocean. The council is expected to decide in June.

Anne Rand, spokeswoman for Soul of Portland, which opposes the rezoning, said the group drafted and paid for that poll question, but didn’t know how much it cost.

“Like any group, we are concerned about messaging and we thought this would give us a good handle on it,” Rand said.

CPB2, the developer of the project, has said the development of the waterfront would be an economic boost to the area.

The poll also asks about the city’s economic growth and whether it is doing enough to protect its maritime heritage, historical landmarks and the beauty of the city.