Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling has raised over $40,000 in campaign donations in the last two months, despite having said he won’t decide until spring whether he’ll run for re-election.

This puts Strimling on pace to surpass the more than $117,000 he raised in 2015, when he outspent his opponent roughly 2-to-1.

“I am humbled by the breadth of the support I’ve received for a potential re-election campaign,” Strimling said in a news release. “It seems clear that if I run for a second term, people are looking for a leader who will continue fighting for affordable housing, great schools, solar power, workers’ rights, expanded democracy and a strong economy. I will spend the next few months continuing to talk with voters to hear what they might be looking for in a second term as I make a final decision on whether to seek re-election.”

Strimling’s official campaign finance report shows he raised $42,311 during the reporting period ending Dec. 31, and comes only two days after his State of the City speech in which he proposed local election reforms to “get the big money out of municipal politics.”

“Unfortunately, year after year, we are seeing campaigns in Portland more and more financed by big money,” Strimling said Monday. “So let’s stop. Let’s level the playing field. Let’s give every candidate who wants to run an equal opportunity to compete and an equal opportunity to avoid being influenced by big donors.”

City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau, the only officially declared mayoral candidate, said it’s an example of Strimling saying one thing and doing another.

Strimling raised over $12,000 from out-of-state donors and labor unions, according to campaign finance reports filed at City Hall. Of the $8,300 from labor unions, $5,100 came from unions based in Massachusetts.

Jason Shedlock, Strimling’s assistant before the City Council eliminated the position, is now executive director of the Maine Building and Trades Council, consisting of 15 local affiliates that represent over 5,000 workers. Shedlock, who personally gave $100, said all the unions that donated represent Maine workers, whether it’s a regional political action committee or a local union whose office is out of state.

Strimling has been a strong advocate for organized labor. The City Council approved a proposal by Strimling to require businesses that received property tax breaks on new development projects, known as Tax Increment Financing, to pay a livable – or a prevailing – wage.

Strimling now wants to expand those requirements to companies hired for all city-funded building contracts of over $50,000. His responsible contracting ordinance, among other things, would require companies to pay prevailing wages established by the Maine Department of Labor. The proposal, which is pending before the council’s Finance Committee, would also require contractors to either participate in a registered apprenticeship program or award bonus points to those that do.

According to Strimling’s finance report, Portland residents or businesses contributed $7,855 to his re-election campaign, not including a $2,441 transfer of leftover campaign cash from 2015 and the $850 he donated to his own campaign. Other donors not listed as Portland residents may have business ties or other connections to the city.

Sixteen people contributed the maximum allowable donation of $850, including Stephanie Clifford, his girlfriend and 2015 campaign manager; Northeast Patients Group, which runs a medical marijuana dispensary in Portland; local restaurateur Dana Street; and the Maine Lobster Union based in Stonington.

Another 16 individuals or groups donated $800, 10 of which were labor unions. Others who donated $800 included Steven Biel, president, treasurer and secretary of Progressive Portland, a nonprofit advocacy group; Emily Figdor, a newly elected school board member who is married to Biel; affordable housing developer Kevin Bunker; and Showtime actress Elizabeth Marvel, who plays Elizabeth Keane on Homeland.

Another $500 was raised by 95 people who each gave less than $50.

Strimling has only spent $755, including $500 for office space at Think Tank Coworking on Congress Street, and on voter information and fundraising platforms.

So far, only Spencer Thibodeau, a 30-year-old real estate attorney, has declared his candidacy and filed paperwork for a mayoral run in Portland. Thibodeau was not required to filed a campaign finance report Tuesday because he registered after Dec. 31, the cut-off for the January report.

“With fewer than 30 percent of his donations coming from Portlanders, it’s clear that Ethan’s divisive approach is not resonating with people in our city,” Thibodeau said. “Portland needs a mayor who is focused on doing their job to move Portland forward, not someone who picks fights with the city council and Jon Jennings just so he can raise more money from out of town and out of state. My approach will be to bring Portlanders together to get things done and improve our quality of life.”

Councilors Justin Costa and Belinda Ray have said they’re considering a run for mayor.

“This is another example of why so many are so jaded with the mayor,” Costa said. “The day after he decried the role of money in city politics he filed reports proving he – and he alone – had spent the past two months raising big money, including thousands of dollars in maximum contributions from those who would benefit financially from his own proposals. The mayor appears as serious about getting money out of politics as he is about fulfilling his promise to bring Portland together.”

Ray declined to comment.

Strimling’s fundraising success underscores the fact that politics is becoming increasingly expensive in Portland.

Strimling raised over $80,000 in an unsuccessful bid for mayor in 2011. The winners of recent at large City Council races have raised nearly $50,000 or more, while City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau raised about $21,000 for his re-election to the District 2 seat last year.

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

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Twitter: randybillings


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