City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau announced Wednesday that he is entering the 2019 race to become Portland’s mayor.

Thibodeau is the first person to formally declare his candidacy in a race that will be decided in November.

The 30-year-old real estate attorney was just elected to a second term representing the west side of the downtown peninsula and is a member of Democratic Gov. Janet Mills’ transition team.

Spencer Thibodeau, who represents Portland City Council District 2, will run for mayor.

“We need new leadership that brings people together and puts Portland before personal politics,” said Thibodeau, who has yet to file paperwork to begin fundraising. “When we all work together, we bring out the best and brightest ideas to help solve our most pressing challenges, whether it’s affordable housing, homelessness, or property tax relief.”

Mayor Ethan Strimling, 51, filed initial paperwork at City Hall on Nov. 5, allowing him to raise and spend money as he explores a possible re-election campaign. On Tuesday, Strimling announced to supporters that in the final two months of 2018 he had raised just over $10,000. He’s not expected to formally announce his decision until this spring, although is he widely expected to be on the ballot in November.

“If I run, the choice for a progressive leader for our city couldn’t be more clear,” Strimling said in a statement, saying he’s proud of his accomplishments. “Councilor Thibodeau is a corporate real estate lawyer who has voted to cut education funding for our kids, to make our affordable housing crisis worse by expanding short-term rentals, and against better training for our working men and women.”

Strimling is completing his first term as mayor. He advocated for the successful $64 million bond to renovate four elementary schools and passed a local property tax rebate plan for seniors that will take effect this year. He’s currently shepherding an ordinance drafted by Maine Women’s Lobby and the Southern Maine Workers Center to require all Portland businesses to offer paid sick leave to all employees, including part-time, seasonal and temporary workers.

During his first term, Strimling has found himself at odds with City Manager Jon Jennings and the City Council over the scope of his authority and power, whether he should have an full-time assistant and a raise. At one point, he suggested creating a task force to opine on the issue of mayoral power, but never followed through.

Tensions between Strimling, the council and manager came to a head in 2017, when Thibodeau publicly urged Strimling to “get it together” and begin working with the council.

Thibodeau is one of multiple councilors who have been weighing whether to run against Strimling this year.

Thibodeau said in a news release that his platform will be “Together, we rise!” He touts his leadership on the council’s Transportation and Sustainability Committee, which oversees climate change initiatives, solar projects and bike lanes, among other things. He also notes he supports incentives for low-income and affordable housing.

Councilors Justin Costa, who represents District 4, and Belinda Ray, who represents District 1 – the east side of the peninsula – also are considering possible runs.

“I am strongly considering a run for mayor, but I’m not yet ready to make a formal announcement,” Ray said.

Portland does not have a so-called strong mayor position that allows the mayor to hire, fire and direct city staff; those responsibilities are the city manager’s. Instead, the mayor is supposed to outline a vision for the city, convene annual goal-setting sessions with the council and work closely with the city manager to implement policies passed by the full council.

While the manager prepares the budget, the mayor also is charged with delivering his own budget message, outlining his or her priorities. The mayor, who works full time and currently earns $73,000 a year, also is charged with advocating for the city at state and federal levels.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: randybillings

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