City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau’s bid to become Portland’s next mayor got a boost Tuesday from five of his colleagues and two former councilors.

The endorsements, together with the first in a series of candidate forums planned for later Tuesday and a profusion of lawn signs throughout the city, signal the unofficial kickoff of election season in Portland.

The first forum was hosted by the Back Cove Neighborhood Association and took place Tuesday evening, although Mayor Ethan Strimling said he could not attend because of a scheduling conflict.

Standing in Lincoln Park, Thibodeau, a 31-year-old real estate attorney, announced endorsements from five of his seven fellow councilors – Brian Batson, Justin Costa, Jill Duson, Nicholas Mavodones and Belinda Ray – as well as from former Councilors Jon Hinck and David Brenerman, who is Thibodeau’s campaign chairman. As mayor, Strimling is the ninth member of the council.

City Councilor Pious Ali said earlier this year he did not expect to make an endorsement, and Councilor Kimberly Cook is supporting Kathleen Snyder, the head of a local educational nonprofit and a former school board member.

Thibodeau’s supporters highlighted his temperament, optimism and professionalism, while taking aim at 51-year-old Strimling. They did not mention the other two candidates, the 49-year-old Snyder and Travis Curran, a 33-year-old restaurant server.

Brenerman said that everyone endorsing Thibodeau on Tuesday had served with Strimling at some point over the last four years. He said Strimling has failed to follow through on his campaign promises to bring the council together and be “listener-in-chief” of the city.

He noted the only two people to be elected mayor since 2010 had no experience serving on the council, and he urged voters to elect someone with experience as a councilor this time. The office was changed in 2010 from an appointed mostly ceremonial post into a full-time position filled by city voters every four years.

“The City Council has had to become a check on the mayor rather than a partner in progress,” Brenerman said. “It is time to bring professionalism and positivity back to the office. It’s time to have a mayor who considers all property taxpayers of the city. That’s why we all agree it’s time for a leadership change.”

Councilor Belinda Ray speaks at a news conference Tuesday announcing that seven current and former city councilors endorse Councilor Spencer Thibodeau for mayor of Portland. Behind Ray, from left to right, are Thibodeau, former Councilor Jon Hinck, Councilor Justin Costa, Councilor Brian Batson, Councilor Jill Duson, former Councilor David Brenerman and Councilor Nick Mavodones. Randy Billings/Staff Writer

Strimling said in a statement that he was not surprised by the endorsements. He pointed to his first-term accomplishments, which include a property tax relief program for seniors, passage of the $64 million school bond and banning synthetic pesticides.

“Within six months of serving, I realized the council wanted a puppet for mayor,” Strimling said. “For four years, as our city has become more and more gentrified and everyday families get more and more squeezed, I have not been their puppet. Nor will I be in a second term. I work for the people of this city: the workers, the elderly, the small-business owners, the new immigrants and the lifetime Mainers. And I always will.”

Snyder said she respects Thibodeau’s service but believes that a new perspective is needed inside City Hall.

“I served Portland for six years as a city-wide elected official during very troubled economic times,” Snyder said. “I certainly respect Councilor Thibodeau’s service as the District 2 councilor and consider him a friend, but I continue to believe that a fresh perspective on the council with local leadership experience will help to create a climate change that we so desperately need.”

The other candidate in the four-way race, Curran, could not be reached Tuesday.

The endorsements announced Tuesday are reminiscent of those made in 2015 when Strimling announced the support of three sitting councilors, including Mavodones and Duson, and seven of the nine members on the school board. Strimling went on to defeat incumbent Michael Brennan.

On Tuesday, the councilors stood behind Thibodeau and accused Strimling of taking credit for the council’s accomplishments and being willing to sow division and discord to claim political victories. That approach has led to a lack of trust, they said.

Councilors said Thibodeau has proven to work well with the other members, understands the mayor’s role and is ready to work within the job’s limitations, saying he cares deeply about the city in which he was raised and returned to work after law school.

Batson said Portland “cannot afford four more years of divisiveness,” a refrain echoed by other speakers.

“It’s not about out-progressing or waging war with individuals who may disagree with their perspectives,” Batson said of Thibodeau. “For him, it’s about understanding. It’s about community. It’s about unity. It’s about working together for the city he has clearly invested the entirety of his life into.”

Thibodeau said he was “deeply humbled” by the support. He said the city needs “fresh energy and real City Hall experience.”

“This isn’t about ‘I’ or ‘me’ – it’s about ‘us’ and ‘we,'” he said. “The success of Portland’s next mayor will be determined by the success of the council and the people behind me. It’s a framework of collaboration set forth by our charter – one that I’m comfortable and ready to work within.”

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.