Matt Buonopane, left, and Kate Sykes are vying for the District 5 Portland City Council seat.

Third of four stories. 

A writer and progressive activist and a commercial lender are running to represent District 5 on the Portland City Council.

Both candidates on the Nov. 7 ballot say the city’s biggest need is new housing, but they differ on how best to get it.

Matt Buonopane, 33, the commercial lender, has never run for office but said he wants to bring a moderate voice to the City Council. He would like to see Portland become a more dense and walkable city, aided by a combination of public and private affordable-housing initiatives.

He’d like to offer more incentives to developers to build affordable housing and fund public housing initiatives like co-ops to create mixed-income housing.

“I think the way forward is to take a moderate, balanced approach where you make big changes but also are careful about where you spend money,” said Buonopane. As a commercial lender for Androscoggin Savings Bank, he said, he understands what it takes to build housing on a large scale.


Kate Sykes, 56, a freelance writer who used to co-chair the electoral committee of the Maine Democratic Socialists of America, ran against Mark Dion for the seat in 2020 and lost after three rounds of ranked-choice voting.

She describes herself as a “municipal-policy nerd” and says she is eager to take part in the city’s ongoing ReCode process, the first update to the city’s land use codes in over 50 years. It’s a chance to update rules about what types of buildings are allowed in different areas.

Sykes wants to see more housing in Portland, but she doesn’t want to rely on private developers to create it.

“We’ve spent a lot of time putting Band-Aids on things,” she said. “But it’s time we really dig deep and look at the root causes.” Her proposal would create social housing built and operated by the city with fixed rents. She’d like to see a model similar to one in use in in Vienna, Austria, where the city government runs large-scale, mixed-income housing developments

“As a small city that is developing and growing, a program like this could be an anchor the city could grow around and it would keep it affordable,” Sykes said.

Sykes and Buonopane are competing for the District 5 council seat held by Mark Dion, who is giving up his position to run for mayor. District 5 is comprised of the North Deering, Deering Center and Riverton neighborhoods.


It’s up for grabs this year along with the District 4 seat now held by Andrew Zarro, who also is running for mayor, and the at-large seat currently held by April Fournier, who is seeking reelection.

Buonopane’s campaign is traditionally financed. By the end of September, he had raised $1,568 and spent all of that money on yard signs, handouts and T-shirts.

Sykes, a clean elections candidate, received $6,666 from the city through the end of last month and had spent $3,492 on lawn signs and mailings.

The city needs to do more to tackle homelessness, Buonopane said, starting with learning more about the growing population of people living in tents.

“I’m a strong believer that people are usually unhoused not because one thing went wrong but because multiple things went wrong,” he said. “And to figure out what’s happening there, we need much better data because it informs next steps.”

Sykes cited child care as a pillar of her platform. She would like to see the city start a day care program for the children of public workers, which could one day expand into a municipal child care program


“We are in the midst of a child care crisis right now,” she said. “People have to quit jobs or can’t get kids into care and it’s causing small businesses to suffer.”

Both candidates said they also view climate initiatives as a top priority.

Buonopane would like to see more accountability measures in place to make sure the city meets its climate goals in coming years. He is particularly focused on climate adaptations to protect the wharfs and other parts of the city that are vulnerable to rising sea levels.

Sykes, who helped write the city’s Green New Deal, would like to charge cruise ship fees and commission a report on the city’s use of fossil fuels in an effort to ultimately eliminate them.

Buonopane said he wants to bring a young, moderate voice to the council, one that he doesn’t think is present now.

“Despite the fact that most people I know would be described as moderate politically, you really wouldn’t know that by looking at our representatives,” he said. “I do really feel strongly that most people have a lot of nuance in their political views.”


Sykes said she hopes to be a part of a municipal government that works together to move the city forward.

“We need to humanize City Hall and stop fighting each other. We aren’t going to get anywhere if we don’t lead with love,” she said. “It’s a big deal to me to make sure our community is joyful and that people are connecting.”


Matt Buonopane

Age: 33

Occupation: Commercial lender at Androscoggin Bank


Hometown: Kennebunk

Education: Bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of New England

Political Experience: None



Kate Sykes 


Age: 56

Occupation: Writer and community organizer

Hometown: Harrison

Education: Studied anthropology at Smith College and the University of New Mexico, but never graduated

Political Experience: Ran for City Council in 2020 and has been active with the Maine Democratic Socialists of America


Tomorrow: Portland School Board at-large seat.  

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