Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling announced Thursday that over 20 former and current elected officials, including five members of the Board of Public Education and City Councilor Pious Ali, are supporting his re-election campaign.

His roster of 23 supporters also includes mayors from Biddeford, Saco, South Portland, Augusta and Westbrook.

The move comes two days after five current and two former city councilors announced their endorsements of City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau for mayor, while criticizing the incumbent.

Standing in the plaza in front of City Hall, Strimling’s supporters applauded the incumbent mayor’s efforts to pass the $64 million school renovation bond and increase school spending. They also highlighted his advocacy of earned paid sick time and a local option sales tax at the state level.

They criticized Thibodeau for voting against a local earned paid sick time ordinance and voting to reduce the budget increase requested by the schools by $1.2 million.

School board member Emily Figdor, who represents the same district as Thibodeau, criticized the 31-year-old real estate attorney for wavering in his support for the school bond, at one point suggesting it be reduced from $64 million to $40 million. Figdor said that would have meant only three schools would be renovated instead of four.

“Once elected, he tried to wiggle out of that promise,” Figdor said. “To stop him from breaking his campaign promise, we had to stay on him – organizing, following up, and watching his every move.”

Thibodeau said in a statement that he’s proud to have received the support of the current council majority. He did not address any of the specific criticisms leveled against him.

“As I knock on doors throughout the city, Portlanders have been clear: We cannot afford four more years of divisive politics from the mayor’s office,” Thibodeau said. “With more negative attacks from the Strimling campaign, it is clear that our campaign is the one to beat. I look forward to using my experience at City Hall to get to work for the people of Portland.”

Thibodeau also has received the endorsements of Michael Bourque, CEO of the Portland insurer MEMIC, and former State Sen. Anne Haskell and State Rep. Richard Farnsworth.

Neither the 51-year-old Strimling nor his supporters mentioned the other two candidates in the race: 49-year-old Kate Snyder, a former school board chair and head of a local educational nonprofit, and 33-year-old Travis Curran, a server in a Portland restaurant.

Snyder, who has been endorsed by City Councilor Kimberly Cook, said in a statement that she would represent all Portland residents, not just special interest groups.

“Elected officials backed by specific and narrow interests, are beholden to an agenda,” Snyder said. “I bring six years of at-large elected experience in Portland, a track record, and a commitment to work on behalf of the entire city. I understand how and have proven my ability to work together with colleagues and the community to determine priorities and then get to work. It’s time for a change at the council table.”

Curran could not be reached to respond to the endorsements of his rivals.

Councilor Ali, who is running unopposed for reelection, had said months ago that he did not plan to make any endorsement in the mayor’s race and he did not respond to a message Tuesday asking if that was still case. On Thursday, however, he said he was “proudly endorsing” Strimling and pointed to the incumbent’s efforts to create a senior property tax relief program, infuse the housing trust fund with $1 million and pass a ban on synthetic pesticides, among other achievements.

“Mayor Strimling gets things done,” Ali said. “Mayor Strimling is the voice of the voiceless, the marginalized, the underserved. We need him for a second term to make sure we continue the work we have started together and to make sure we don’t turn back all we have achieved.”

Asked why he changed his mind about staying neutral, Ali said he meant that he was not endorsing anyone at the time the question was first asked, not that he wouldn’t make an endorsement in the future.

Eliza Townsend, a former state representative and former executive director of the Maine Women’s Lobby, worked with Strimling on a paid sick leave ordinance for Portland workers. The two-year effort ultimately failed, largely because Gov. Mills’ administration endorsed and ultimately approved a statewide paid time off policy.

Townsend called out Thibodeau for voting against the local ordinance. And she credited Strimling’s push in Portland for prompting the state to act, though state lawmakers were working under the threat of a citizen’s initiative to enact a statewide paid sick leave requirement unless a state bill was passed.

“That (state law) is a benefit to over 85,000 people and it started right here with Mayor Strimling,” she said.

Rep. Michael Sylvester voiced support for Strimling, who was also joined Thursday by Rep. Benjamin Collings, former Rep. Diane Russell, South Portland City Councilor Deqa Dhalac, South Portland Mayor Claude Morgan, Portland school board member Tim Atkinson and former school board member John Eder.

Strimling said he had knocked on more than 10,000 doors over the last six months and people are concerned about being priced out of the city and the amount of development occurring.

In a second term, he said, he would look to increase investment in universal pre-kindergarten, pass a $10 million housing bond, improve public transit and tackle climate change, while also expanding the senior property tax rebate to all low-income residents.

Although he campaigned in 2015 vowing to bring together a divided council, Strimling said he refuses to be their “puppet.”

“What I have understood from the first day of being in City Hall is my role is to be the voice of the people,” Strimling said. “I’m going to be the voice of the people.”

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