Seven-term incumbent Nicholas Mavodones has raised six times as much money in his campaign for the Portland City Council than his challenger, Joey Brunelle, according to campaign finance reports filed Friday at City Hall.

The 11-day pre-election reports cover fundraising and spending between July 1 and Oct. 23, giving voters their first comprehensive look at campaign finances in City Council and School Board races less than two weeks before the election.

Joey Brunelle

Brunelle, a 33-year-old digital marketer who is not accepting donations from real estate developers, out-of-state donors or corporations, tried to turn Mavodones’ $35,328 haul against him in the race for an at-large seat on the City Council. Brunelle has raised $5,536.

“My opponent’s campaign is funded almost exclusively by real estate, corporate and legal special interests,” Brunelle said. “This is wrong – it is not in the best interests of the people of Portland. My campaign has always been free of corporate influence, and completely people-powered.”

Mavodones had 23 people give him the maximum donation of $800. He said he’s proud of the support he’s getting from friends, family and neighbors, as well as current and former elected officials whom he has gotten to know in his 40 years living and working in Portland.

“I have never made any sort of pledge concerning the acceptance of contributions,” Mavodones said. “In fact, I would never castigate any groups or individuals willing to support, or not support, my campaign. As you know, the real estate world is not monolithic. In fact, I have received support from those who construct a variety of types of projects, including affordable housing.”

Mavodones, a 58-year-old operations manager at Casco Bay Lines, also is getting some unsolicited help from the National Association of Realtors, which made a $7,300 independent expenditure in support of his re-election at the request of the Greater Portland Board of Realtors. Both Mavodones and Brunelle denounced the outside spending, and Mavodones quickly filmed a Facebook video calling on the NAR to stay out of the race after learning about the ad buy from a reporter.

Nicholas Mavodones

Mavodones said his campaign has raised fewer dollars than two other at-large campaigns last year, when challenger Bree LaCasse raised just over $41,000 and the winner, incumbent Jill Duson, raised $35,347.

Mavodones also pointed out that the candidates for an open state Senate seat in Portland have raised far more in public campaign funding for a seat representing about 35,000 people, while an at-large council seat represents 67,000, Mavodones said.

“It is unfortunate that the expense associated with running a citywide campaign has gotten so expensive; however, that is a reality,” Mavodones said. “It costs a great deal of money to simply print and mail literature.”

Mavodones has spent over $22,000 on direct mailers, $2,100 on lawn signs, $2,000 on video production and over $1,900 on palm cards.

Brunelle, who placed second in last year’s at-large race, is lagging behind last year’s fundraising pace, when he raised nearly all of his $13,625 by this point. So far this year, Brunelle has raised $5,536, including $3,920 since the summer.

“Last year we wasted too much money on things we discovered weren’t very useful, like too many lawn signs and expensive glossy mailers,” said Brunelle, noting that he has about a dozen volunteers helping him knock on doors and drop off campaign literature. “Everyone is sick of lawn signs and junk mail. What matters more than anything is having conversations with voters, and that’s basically free.”

Brunelle has spent $1,254 on lawn signs, over $500 on Facebook ads and $327 on food for campaign events. He has $2,010 on hand for the homestretch, compared to Mavodones’s $5,525.


Incumbents hold significant fundraising advantages in the two other City Council races, while fundraising is pretty equal in the only contested School Board race.

In the District 1 race, incumbent Belinda Ray, a 48-year-old freelance writer and accounts and administration manager for a local building company, has raised $4,365 since July and spent $2,912, including $2,370 on direct mail. She has $3,569 on hand for the final stretch, mostly because she began the reporting period with $2,116 in cash on hand. Her opponent, Matthew Coffey, a 39-year-old self-employed landscaper who has struggled with homelessness and mounted two prior unsuccessful campaigns, had not filed a campaign finance report as of late Friday afternoon and did not respond to an inquiry from a reporter.

In the District 2 council race, incumbent Spencer Thibodeau, a 30-year-old real estate attorney, has raised an additional $9,900 since July and spent $13,000. His challenger, Jonathan Torsch, a 30-year-old utility system data engineer who is running as a Democratic Socialist, has raised $1,479. Thibodeau, who has spent nearly $10,900 on palm cards and direct mail, has $405 on hand for the final stretch of the election, while Torsch has $132.

Meanwhile, fundraising is neck-and-neck for the only contested School Board seat.

In the District 2 race, which does not have an incumbent running, Emily Figdor has raised $7,736, with $2,200 coming from organized labor groups and $1,836 coming from 55 contributors giving $50 or less, who do not need to have their identities or hometowns disclosed.

Jeanne Swanton has raised $7,305, with Tom and Judy Watson, of the Watson Co., giving maximum donations of $800 each. John and Roberta Watson of York Harbor also gave her a combined $500 donation, and Vida Hettenbach, of Centerport, New York, donated the $800 maximum.

Swanton has much more money on hand for the final stretch, with $3,138 on hand, compared to Figdor’s $873.

The complete finance reports are here:

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

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