Justin Costa, a former Portland city councilor, has announced plans to run for mayor. Courtesy of Justin Levesque

Former Portland City Councilor Justin Costa has announced he is running for mayor, joining a small but growing field that includes two current city councilors and a political newcomer.

Costa, 40, works in finance for the rental car company Auto Europe and served six years on the Portland school board and six years on the City Council.

“I think we as a government are struggling to translate big ideas like affordability and housing into real concrete policies, programs and budgets that can actually affect people’s lives positively,” Costa said in an interview Tuesday.

“I have a lot of experience doing that all throughout municipal government, so I think I have something to offer and can help move the city forward.”

Costa served on the school board from 2008 to 2014 and represented District 4 on the council from 2014 to 2020, though he now lives in District 3.

He finished second to April Fournier in a four-way race for an at-large seat on the council in 2020. He also made a run for mayor in 2019, but dropped out of the race in July of that year citing a series of personal events.


Costa, who is Hispanic, a renter and has a young son who will attend Portland schools, said many of the city’s issues are personal to him. “That combined with my experience is something that’s really relevant to a lot of people,” he said.

He is the fourth candidate to announce a run for mayor, joining Mark Dion, a lawyer and the current District 5 councilor; Dylan Pugh, a software developer at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and political newcomer; and Andrew Zarro, a program manager at a nonprofit and the current District 4 councilor. Mayor Kate Snyder has said she won’t seek reelection.

Candidates in Portland don’t run on party affiliation, but all four said they are Democrats.

“I’m happy to welcome Justin to the race and appreciate that Portland voters will have many options this fall,” Zarro said in a statement Tuesday.

“I’m proud of my work and record on issues that Justin is highlighting like housing and affordability, and I look forward to hearing more about his plans as the campaign progresses,” he added.

“I’m glad to see Justin join the race, and I share his sense of urgency and commitment to making real change,” Pugh said in a statement. “I look forward to seeing the proposals Justin puts together, because it’s clear that our current approach is not working. My commitment remains the same: to bring a more empathetic and creative approach to city government.”

Dion did not immediately respond to a phone message or email seeking comment on Costa entering the race.

Costa, Pugh and Zarro have all filed paperwork to run as clean elections candidates. Dion has said he does not plan to utilize the program because he disagrees with the spending levels and aspects of how the program is set up.

Candidates for mayor must gather between 300 and 500 signatures from voters to qualify for the ballot and can begin turning those signatures in on Aug. 14. Also up for election this year are Zarro’s District 4 council seat, Dion’s District 5 council seat, an at-large council seat and three school board seats.

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