On Nov. 8, political newcomer Brian Batson pulled off a political upset. A resident of Portland for about one year with no significant involvement in any community or neighborhood organizations, the 25-year-old registered nurse from Ellsworth unseated three-term incumbent Edward Suslovic for the District 3 City Council seat.

It was an upset that not many people saw coming – not even Suslovic. Even though he has a reputation as a combative and controversial councilor who was not afraid to take unpopular positions on issues, Suslovic didn’t raise any money for his campaign against the unknown Batson and relied on leftover yard signs from previous campaigns.

Batson, meanwhile, was busy hitting the pavement and knocking on doors in the district with the help of a few high school friends. When people weren’t home, he would insert campaign literature into an envelope, on which he left a handwritten note.

“I wanted people to know I knocked on the door,” Batson said, noting that he also sent out two rounds of mailings. “I won by reaching everybody. I think that really worked to my advantage as well.”

Batson was raised in Ellsworth, where he was a state champion swimmer. He said he set both school and state records his senior year in high school, but they have since been broken. He went on to receive a swimming scholarship at La Salle University, where he earned a degree in science and nursing, before returning to Maine.

Batson said he persuaded a couple of his childhood friends – a blacksmith and a painter/cartoonist – to move to Portland last year, even though none of them had jobs lined up. Batson quickly landed a job at Maine Medical Center, where he works two 12-hour shifts a week as a stroke nurse.

Until his campaign, Batson said he swam regularly at the YMCA. He also likes to paddle-board at Willard Beach in South Portland, surf at Higgins Beach in Scarborough and otherwise stay active.

Although he had no prior political experience, Batson decided to run for a council seat after the city decided to shut down the HIV-positive care services offered at the city-run India Street Public Health Center, transitioning those services to the nonprofit federally qualified health center, Greater Portland Health. The city continues to operate the needle exchange and STD testing and treatment out of India Street.

Batson believes the council would benefit from his health care experience. He is opposed to privatizing EMS services – a move that Suslovic was interested in exploring.

Those positions likely won him the endorsement of the firefighters union. Batson, who identified himself as a progressive, also won the endorsement of the Maine People’s Alliance, which sent direct mail in support of Batson and Pious Ali, who won the at-large council seat.

Batson said he hopes to avoid political and personal conflicts that have been on display recently among Mayor Ethan Strimling, the City Council and City Manager Jon Jennings.

“I have zero interest in that,” he said. “I just want people to know that I won through hard work and I plan on making informed and educated decisions. I want to utilize my health-care background to do good work.”

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: randybillings

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