Former state Sen. Ethan Strimling, the perceived front-runner in the three-way Portland mayoral race, came under fire Thursday for the amount of campaign donations he’s received from contributors tied to real estate development.

With Strimling and Mayor Michael Brennan launching television ads in the closing days of the campaign, Green Party leader and mayoral candidate Tom MacMillan criticized Strimling on Thursday for receiving more than a third of his $100,000 in campaign donations from real estate developers.

MacMillan has raised less than $3,000 and is running a campaign focused on helping low-income residents by raising the minimum wage and instituting rent control.

“When Ethan Strimling took over $33,000 from luxury developers and their allies and then speaks about the real need to build more housing, it should be obvious what his priorities will be if elected; I am deeply concerned that the ‘listening’ that he touts will be mostly to the wealthy developers funding his campaign,” MacMillan said in a news release.

Brennan, who has faced criticism for supporting the sale of Congress Square Park to a private developer, echoed MacMillan’s concerns in a written statement released by his campaign manager.

“Tom raises legitimate concerns,” said Brennan, who also supported a decision to rezone the former Portland Co. complex, leading to a citywide referendum about scenic views. “This is similar to four years ago, when Ethan raised a considerable amount of money from private developers and wealthy business interests. It is important for voters to understand the driving interests behind that campaign.”


The criticism highlights a widespread concern about the cost of living in Maine’s largest city and a distrust of developers. That concern has become a focal point of not only the mayor’s race, but the City Council races as well. It has become manifest in competing efforts to increase the minimum wage in the city and a new requirement for some developers to include housing units that are affordable to middle income earners.

Strimling has said residents fear that Portland will become like Boston, which he characterized as a place for either the very wealthy or those seeking services. His answer to the housing crisis is to build 2,000 more housing units over the next five years and raise the base wage of tipped workers. Adding all types of housing should be the goal, he says.

“We have to contain rents through an infusion of new market-rate apartments and the encouragement of affordable housing developments through subsidy, zoning and stronger partnerships with the not-for-profit sector,” Strimling said this month.

Stephanie Clifford, Strimling’s campaign manager, countered MacMillan’s criticism Thursday by highlighting that most of the Strimling campaign’s 431 donors gave $100 or less.

“We’re very proud of the broad coalition of support we have on this campaign. Our contributors are teachers, firefighters, labor leaders, business leaders, immigrants and residents from all over Portland,” she said. “Building this coalition shows Ethan’s ability to bring people together as we chart a new vision for this city.”

While MacMillan criticized Strimling for taking money from “luxury developers,” donors tied to affordable housing, such as the Developers Collaborative, American Housing Preservation Corps. and the Szanton Co., also have given to the Strimling campaign.


According to a Press Herald analysis of campaign finance reports, Strimling has in fact raised more than $30,000 from real estate developers, agents and those with financial interests tied to the construction industries. However, his donors come from a wide array of business and groups, as well as individuals.

Meanwhile, Brennan, a licensed social worker, received more than $12,680 – about a quarter of his nearly $49,000 in funding – from donors associated with nonprofits, including nearly $8,000 from those in health care and social services. Seven of Brennan’s biggest contributors, those who donated $750 or more, are attorneys.

Some real estate professionals are personally giving to Strimling, while others are giving through their companies. In some cases, they are giving through both.

For example, four limited liability companies tied to Waterfront Maine, which redeveloped the former Cumberland Cold Storage building on Merrill’s Wharf into the Piece Atwood building, donated a total of $2,300 to Strimling. All four corporations are based out of 14 Maine St. in Brunswick.

Anthony Gatti, whose family controls the LLCs, did not return a request for comment.

Three other LLCs sharing the same address at 50 Portland Pier, Suite 400 – Atlantic Bayside Square, Casco Bay Management Inc. and Bayside Ventures LLC – gave a total of $2,250.


Eric Cianchette, who recently constructed a new building near the Portland International Jetport to house the state’s Department of Health and Human Services offices, gave a maximum contribution of $775, while 36 Market Street LLC, a real estate holding company he controls, also gave the maximum of $775. And East Brown Cow Management LLC and Cow Plaza Hotel LCC donated $775 each, while Tim Soley, who controls both entities, donated nearly $388.

Other prominent real estate donors include employees of the CBRE | The Boulos Co., who gave a total of $2,275, Ann Marie Malone and Malone Commercial Brokers gave $775 each, and Kevin Mahaney of Olympia Cos. gave $775.

Among other donors to Strimling’s campaign, Jacklyn and Miguel Bezos, the parents of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, each gave a maximum contribution of $775.


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