Justin Costa announced on Wednesday his bid to become Portland’s next mayor, making him the third sitting city councilor to enter the race. Costa, a 35-year-old accountant who represents District 4, which includes East Deering and Back Cove, wrote in a statement that his decade of experience as an elected official on both the school board and council best positions him for the role of mayor.

“We all deserve a mayor who can live up to the high standards that our community has for itself,” Costa said in the statement. “Above all else, we need a mayor who will put Portland over politics, and who will work tirelessly to bring people of differing views together to make progress on issues like housing, property taxes, addiction, mental health, homelessness, quality schools and our economy.”

Costa is serving his second term on the council and previously served three terms on the school board. He currently chairs the council’s Economic Development Committee and serves on the Finance Committee.

He said his record includes support for the $64 million bond to renovate four elementary schools, raising the minimum wage in Portland and preserving public assistance for more than 800 asylum seekers when funding was cut by former Gov. Paul LePage. Costa said he also supported the creation of the city’s housing safety office and helped expand job training programs.

The election will take place Nov. 5, 2019.

First-term Mayor Ethan Strimling has not formally announced his candidacy but has been raising money since November. The challenges from three sitting councilors come after council members have been openly critical of Strimling. Tensions culminated in a public meeting and carried over to Strimling’s unsuccessful bid to lead the Finance Committee last year, which led the mayor to lash out at the council during a radio appearance.

District 2 City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau announced his candidacy in early January. The 31-year-old real estate attorney, who represents the western peninsula, offered a similar message, saying he would put “Portland before personal politics” and bring people together to address a shortage of affordable housing, homelessness and provide property tax relief.

“I welcome (Costa) to the race and look forward to continuing to work with him on issues important to all Portlanders,” Thibodeau said. “It is clear that Portland is in need of new leadership and a change from the politics of division we have seen over the last four years.”

District 1 City Councilor Belinda Ray entered the race about three weeks after Thibodeau. She said the role of mayor has not reached its full potential and that “Portland deserves a working mayor.” Ray, who is 48 and represents the eastern peninsula and islands, said she’d bring leadership, integrity, commitment, authenticity and accountability to the mayor’s office.

She welcomed Costa to the race, saying the next mayor should be someone who has experience working as a city councilor, which neither Strimling nor former Mayor Michael Brennan had when they took office.

“I’m glad that Portlanders now have three valid choices in considering who should be our next mayor, and I look forward to debating the issues with councilors Thibodeau and Costa over the next several months,” Ray said.

Strimling filed initial paperwork in early November to begin raising and spending money for his campaign. Finance reports filed in January showed he raised over $42,000 in November and December, putting him on pace to raise more than the $117,000 he raised in 2015.

Strimling has been getting fundraising assistance from former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Betsy Sweet and Progressive Portland, a nonprofit advocacy group that already has endorsed Strimling even though he’s not a declared candidate.

“I agree with Justin that there is division in our community,” Strimling said. “There are two sides here: the workers and struggling families of Portland and the decision-makers in the establishment who are working against their best interests. I will always fight for the hard-working people of this city to get results for what they care about.”

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

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Twitter: randybillings

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