SOUTH PORTLAND — The city’s increasingly progressive political agenda withstood some pushback in municipal elections held Tuesday, when voters picked one of two candidates who offered a more moderate approach and backed a $4.5 million bond referendum to buy open space.

Incumbent District 3 Councilor Misha Pride, 39, who is serving as mayor this year, won his bid for a second three-year term by a vote of 4,048-3,573. He was challenged by longtime school board Chairman Richard Matthews, 55, a self-described “common sense moderate” who defended the board last March when it was accused of being racist.

South Portland incumbent District 3 Councilor Misha Pride, who is serving as mayor this year, greets voters at the South Portland Community Center on Tuesday. Pride won a second three-year term by a vote of 4,048-3,573. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Linda Cohen, 66, another self-described moderate who is a former councilor and mayor, won the District 4 council seat by a vote of 4,128-3,299. She was challenged by Margaret Brownlee, 40, an advocate for and vice chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission that the council formed last year. Brownlee is one of the people who said school board members were racist.

While district councilors must live in the districts they represent, they are elected by residents citywide. South Portland has five district and two at-large councilors. Only districts 3 and 4 were up for election this year.

Nearly 70 percent of voters Tuesday approved the $4.5 million bond referendum. The vote was 5,369-2,328. That money will fortify the city’s land bank to buy and protect open space. The council decided unanimously to put the referendum question on the ballot at the recommendation of the Open Space Acquisition Committee and the South Portland Land Trust.

Both Cohen and Matthews said they opposed the land bank bond referendum and believed the city has more pressing concerns, especially with 375 acres of parkland already under municipal ownership or management.


Matthews, a former business owner, is wrapping up his 11th year on the school board, including several years as chairman. He had curtailed his council campaign in recent weeks after undergoing surgery for colon cancer. He said the prognosis is good and he was in no way backing out of the council race.

Cohen is Monmouth’s town manager and previously was the city clerk in Portland and South Portland. She was District 4 councilor for six years before leaving the seat in 2018, including two as mayor.

Pride, who is a lawyer, said he supported the land bank referendum. Pride said he would continue to advocate for affordable housing, programs for homeless residents and elder services; work to increase state revenue sharing and keep property taxes down; encourage economic development such as the city’s pandemic business loan program; and fight to protect the environment as outlined in the city’s One Climate Future partnership with Portland.

Brownlee, who is the diversity, equity and inclusion officer at the Maine College of Art & Design, said she was undecided on the land bank referendum. Brownlee said she supports the LGBTQ and BIPOC communities, affordable housing, clean air and water, working-class families, inclusive classrooms, education and the people of South Portland. She also wanted to tackle workforce labor shortages, regional transportation issues, diversity in city government and the impacts of climate change.

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