Two challengers backed by the local affiliate of the Democratic Socialists of America are hoping to unseat two Portland city councilors in November.

At-large City Councilor Nicholas Mavodones, left, is facing a challenge from Joey Brunelle.

Longtime City Councilor Nicholas Mavodones is facing a challenge for his at-large seat from Joey Brunelle, who placed second in a three-way race last year against Jill Duson, another long-serving councilor.

And Councilor Spencer Thibodeau is being challenged in District 2 by Jonathan Torsch, an electrical engineer and newcomer to city politics.

Both Brunelle and Torsch are endorsed by Southern Maine DSA, reflecting a national surge of activism among the group’s affiliates since the election of President Trump. As of mid-July, there were 42 people running for offices at the federal, state and local levels this year with the formal endorsement of the Democratic Socialists of America, according to the organization. They span 20 states, including Florida, Hawaii, Kansas and Michigan.

The group’s constitution describes its members as socialists who “reject an economic order based on private profit” and “share a vision of a humane social order based on popular control of resources and production, economic planning, equitable distribution, feminism, racial equality and non-oppressive relationships.”

Although the City Council has been dominated by registered Democrats, Portland city elections are nonpartisan.

The race between Mavodones and Brunelle is the only citywide contest for a council seat.

Mavodones, who is the operations manager at Casco Bay Lines, has been a councilor for nearly 21 years, including four terms as the council-appointed mayor. He is seeking his eighth term and has been one of the more fiscally conservative councilors.

Brunelle, a web developer, has been campaigning since May. Brunelle’s campaign is not accepting donations from political action committees, corporations, real estate developers or out-of-state sources and has focused on Portland’s high housing costs and called for stricter regulations of short rentals such as those advertised on Airbnb, among other things.

The race between Thibodeau and Torsch will be decided by voters in District 2, which covers the west side of the peninsula.

Thibodeau is a real estate attorney who is finishing his first term on the council. Thibodeau has highlighted his efforts to address climate change, improve schools and integrate new Mainers, among other things.

Torsch is an electrical engineer focusing on power system data and control. He serves as a board member with the local DSA, and has focused his campaign partly on high housing costs similar to Brunelle, who garnered the most votes in the district last year.

The West End also will vote on a new school board member. District 2 incumbent Holly Seeliger did not return her nomination papers.

Two leaders of the successful school renovation bond campaign, Emily Figdor and Jeanne Swanton, are vying to replace Seeliger. Both were co-founders of Protect Our Neighborhood Schools and have children in the school system.

Maine Political Report



Figdor, who is a campaign director for MoveOn.org, has called out the City Council for not supporting the superintendent’s original budget, which would have increased the school’s portion of the tax rate by nearly 10 percent.

Swanton, who ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2012, provides project management, property management and bookkeeping services to several local Portland businesses and said she supports the district’s achievement and equity goals.

Voters in District 1, the East End of the peninsula, also will vote in a contested City Council race.

Incumbent Belinda Ray is being challenged by Matthew Coffey, an activist in the homeless community who ran unsuccessfully in 2015 and 2016.

The East End will also get a new school board member. Incumbent Jenna Vendil is not seeking re-election and Abusana Michael Bondo is running unopposed for that seat.

At-large school board member Sarah Thompson is running unopposed for re-election to her seat after Lawson Conroy withdrew his nomination papers.

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

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Twitter: randybillings