City Councilor Pious Ali on Monday became the fifth candidate to enter the Portland mayoral race.

The at-large councilor joins city councilors Mark Dion and Andrew Zarro, former councilor Justin Costa, and political newcomer Dylan Pugh. Ali said he took out his nomination papers Monday.

Pious Ali Submitted photo

They are running to succeed Mayor Kate Snyder, who was elected in 2019 and announced last September that she would not seek reelection. Municipal elections will be held  Nov. 7.

“Portland is a city with robust community values, tremendous heart, and unlimited opportunity,” Ali said in a statement issued Monday night. “We are also a city that is changing. In many ways for the better, but in some ways that change has made life hard for too many Portland families.

“As economic growth squeezes out middle class families, and workers earn wages below what is livable, and climate change threatens our working waterfront, and as our housing crisis pushes more families to the street and young families to surrounding communities, we need a mayor who will take bold collaborative action to address these challenges.”

Ali, who chairs the council’s Housing and Economic Development Committee, said his campaign will focus on shared economic development, environmental stewardship, and addressing challenges posed by urban growth. He said he believes that by harnessing the city’s diversity and inclusivity, Portland can become a shining example of progress and prosperity.


Ali also said he is determined to amplify the voices of marginalized communities and create equal opportunities for all Portland residents.

In his city councilor profile, Ali says he is the first African-born Muslim American to be elected to public office in Maine – he was elected to Portland’s Board of Education in 2013. A native of Ghana, Ali has worked as a photojournalist for a range of print publications. He migrated to the United States and New York City before moving to Maine in 2002.

Ali joins a crowded field of candidates.

Dion chairs the council’s finance committee and is a lawyer in private practice, specializing in criminal defense and cannabis issues. He previously was a Portland police officer, Cumberland County sheriff, a state representative and a state senator.

Zarro was elected in 2020. He works as a program manager at the nonprofit StartOut and owned the former Little Woodfords coffee shop. He chairs the City Council’s Sustainability & Transportation Committee.

Pugh said he decided to run because he is particularly concerned about affordable housing and homelessness. He works as a software developer at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. Pugh, who launched his campaign in April, has not held elected office.

Costa, 40, works in finance for the rental car company Auto Europe and served six years on the Portland school board and six on the City Council. He announced his candidacy earlier this month.

Snyder said in an interview with the Press Herald last year that no particular reason drove her decision not to seek reelection. She said the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues gave her time to reflect on what she wanted to do with the rest of her life.

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