Supporters of Portland referendums, Maine DSA and One Fair Wage Portland gathered at Ruby’s West End Tuesday to await results. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Several key proposals before Portland voters, including a change to the structure of city government and an increase in the minimum wage, were rejected by voters on Tuesday.

Question 2, the proposal that would have changed the structure of city government and strengthen the role of the mayor, failed – with 20,669 votes against, or about 65%, and 11,154 in support. The city has 47,875 registered voters and received 15,236 absentee ballot requests.

Question D, which would have raised the minimum wage to $18 per hour by 2025 and eliminate the sub-minimum or tip credit wage, also failed, with 19,928 votes against, or about 61%, and 12,676 in support.

There were 13 referendums facing city voters, including eight questions from the Portland Charter Commission and five that came through the citizen-initiated referendum process.

Four of the citizen-initiated questions were sponsored by the Maine chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America’s Livable Portland campaign and one, Question A, was sponsored by short-term rental operators. Of those questions, only Question C, which sought to protect renters and strengthen the city’s rent control ordinance, was passed by voters. There were 17,871 votes in favor of the question, versus 14,680 against.

All charter questions, with the exception of Questions 2 and 5 – which would remove the City Council’s vote on the school budget – were approved by voters, including Question 3, a proposal for clean elections that won by a vote of 21,579 to 11,465.


Supporters of Portland referendums, Maine DSA and One Fair Wage Portland listen to Ethan Strimling as he addresses the crowd at Ruby’s West End Tuesday. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

“Let’s be clear. The Democratic Socialists of America did not have Portland workers in mind when they brought forward this question. Their effort was about a national group who used Portland as a testing ground to push their extreme policy agenda. Portland voters trusted the voices of our local workers over national celebrities, who know nothing about our people or our city. This is a huge victory for so many workers in Portland who spoke out and shared their story,” Quincy Hentzel, spokesperson for Enough is Enough, which asked Portland voters to oppose all 13 ballot questions., said in a statement.

Members of Maine DSA and One Fair Wage, a group supporting Question D, gathered at a watch party Tuesday night at Ruby’s West End, where about 50 party goers were waiting for results to come in. Many wore bright red shirts that read “Maine DSA for a Livable Portland.” Signs throughout Ruby’s urged Portlanders to vote “Yes to $18 with Tips on Top.”

As results came in, DSA spokesperson Wes Pelletier and other volunteers hunched over cellphones looking at what were initially discouraging results for most Portland ballot initiatives.

Former Mayor Ethan Strimling, a DSA member, said the minimum wage initiative is “not looking good” so far, but there were still a lot of absentee ballots to be counted. He said definitive results would not be known until later Tuesday evening or early Wednesday morning.

By 10:30 p.m., DSA organizers were shutting down the party.

Pelletier said that it was disappointing to see the minimum wage proposal seemingly go down, but the DSA was proud to stand with workers.


“The National Restaurant Association poured $1 million into this campaign with disinformation about how tipping would go down,” Pelletier said. “It’s disheartening to see but we will not stop fighting for higher pay for workers.”

Joshua Chaisson, a spokesperson for Restaurant Industry United, said the DSA and One Fair Wage tried to “upend and redesign our industry.”

“We’re incredibly thankful to all of the restaurant workers who spoke out and stood up to defend the livelihoods we value so dearly,” Chaisson said in a statement.

Pelletier said he was more encouraged by early results on Question C.

“Everyone knows Portland is simply not affordable, and we are proud to stand in defense of tenants,” Pelletier said.

Joshua Chaisson, a server at the Porthole who is also a spokesperson for Restaurant Industry United, which opposed Question D, speaks to reporters Tuesday as election results were posted. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Meanwhile, opponents of the referendums gathered at the Porthole for a watch party organized by Enough is Enough.


Cheers erupted when a newscast reported that Question E, which would restrict the number of cruise ship passengers who can disembark, was losing. Enough is Enough opposed the measure because it feels it would harm business owners. The measure was losing 12,505 to 5,191 at midnight.

The watch party was fairly subdued. With many results still unknown, several attendees left to go home before 10 p.m.

Spokesperson Quincy Hentzel said she was hopeful that voters listened to residents and workers who believe that taxes will increase and quality of life will go down if those measures are approved.

“Based on the voter turnout, which was heavy, I am optimistic that they will turn down all of the measures,” said Hentzel, who also serves as President and CEO of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Joshua Chaisson, a server at the Porthole who is also a spokesperson for Restaurant Industry United, which opposed Question D, said he wasn’t sure how voters would respond to the ballot measure.

“My gut feeling is great, but my mind not necessarily the same,” Chaisson said. “I just hope that Portland voters listened to those workers who will be intimately affected if Question D passes.”


Voters, meanwhile, offered a range of opinions on the measures.

Nell Houde, 26, said she was excited by the citizen-initiated referendums and voted ‘yes” on all of them. “As a young person trying to live here and dealing with a housing crisis, the limits on short-term rentals were really important to me,” Houde said shortly after casting her ballot at Merrill Auditorium.

She said she also supported the change to the school budget process in Question 5. “I think it makes it a more transparent process,” Houde said, adding that the school budget process as it is can become messy and politicized.

At the polls at St. Pius X Church, Kelly Rowell said she voted “no” on all the referendums. “I think when they did them, they didn’t think far enough ahead,” said Rowell, 65. “Like the one with the cruise ships, how do they think our Old Port and our city survives? The people that get tipped – what they proposed is not going to help. The proposed changes to the City Council, again they didn’t think far enough ahead.”

Several of the referendums drew significant opposition in the months heading into the election. Question 2 was opposed by Mayor Kate Snyder as well as several councilors and former mayors, who said the change isn’t necessary and puts too much authority in one person.

The sweeping change to the structure of city government would increase the authority of the mayor, who would prepare and present the city budget, nominate department heads and could veto council ordinances. It would also replace the city manager with a less powerful chief administrator, who would report directly to the mayor. The council would expand from nine members to 12.


Kathryn Ackermann cast her ballot at Reiche Elementary School in Portland on Tuesday. She worried in particular about Question 2.

“I think it would be nuts to have a strong mayor,” Ackermann said. “It would be like a pendulum going back and forth.”

Question D also drew significant opposition, including restaurant industry workers and corporations like Uber and DoorDash, who together spent over $500,000. The companies said Question D’s requirement that their workers earn the same minimum wage as other types of workers threatens their flexibility as independent contractors.

Ken Tarr consulted with friends who work in the restaurants who said the change wasn’t necessary or sustainable before he cast his ballot Tuesday at Reiche Elementary School. He voted no on Question D.

“For the most part, a lot of small businesses are already paying a minimum wage and protecting their employees,” said Tarr, 29.

David Schwartz, 39, wore his “I Voted” sticker as he walked out of the Woodfords Club Tuesday morning. Fair wages are one of his top concerns, and he supported Question D because he wants to see pay go up.

“I have a lot of friends who are working multiple jobs,” Schwartz said.

See the latest election updates here.

Staff writers Megan Gray, Dennis Hoey and Joe Lawlor contributed to this story. 

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