Portland mayoral candidate Mark Dion talks with supporters at his election night party at Bruno’s Restaurant & Tavern on Tuesday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Early results from Tuesday’s mayoral election in Portland showed Mark Dion taking the lead with about 40% of the vote, but the race will ultimately be decided Wednesday in a ranked-choice runoff.

It’s only the fourth time Portland voters have elected a mayor under the current charter.

Candidates Pious Ali, Justin Costa, Mark Dion, Dylan Pugh and Andrew Zarro spent the last seven months campaigning to lead the city. The five candidates put forth various proposals and ideas for how to handle the city’s encampment crisis and how to create more affordable housing.

As of 11 p.m., Dion was leading with 8,832 votes, followed by Zarro with 5,897 votes (26%) and Ali with 4,876 (21%). Costa and Pugh trailed far behind, with 1,757 and 901 votes, respectively. The final but unofficial totals on Tuesday night included all absentee ballots. The overall turnout was still being calculated, but the city said a total of 22,913 votes were counted.

Because none of the candidates received more than 50% of the vote in the initial count, the election will be decided by a ranked-choice runoff.

The city planned to make ranked-choice voting tabulations at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the State of Maine room in City Hall. It will be open to the public.



A crowd of about 50 people – including Dion’s wife, daughter and grandchildren – gathered to support the current city councilor at Bruno’s Restaurant and Tavern in North Deering on Tuesday night as the results rolled in.

Dion, 68, said he felt good going into election night.

Cheryl Leeman, center, points out some of the early results to Portland mayoral candidate Mark Dion, right, being projected at his election night party for at Bruno’s Restaurant & Tavern on Tuesday. Leeman, who is Dion’s campaign manager and a former Portland city councilor and mayor, said they are feeling very excited about the initial results. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

“I was encouraged about how much positive feedback we got from voters, and because it seems like there’s been a big turnout at the polling sites I went to,” he said. “I feel we did our work, we did what was expected, we had a good message and people understood and connected with it, the question is if that will be the majority view of how Portland chooses to move forward.”

“As far as the early numbers go they’re encouraging, but a lot could change with the absentee ballots,” Dion said.

He came to the race with years of political experience serving on the City Council, stage Legislature and as Cumberland County sheriff. He emphasized public safety and proposed using law enforcement to compel homeless people into shelter while continuing encampment sweeps. Mayor Kate Snyder endorsed Dion as her first choice in the race.


At Merrill Auditorium in Portland late Tuesday morning, Frank Payson, 71, said he ranked Dion first for Portland mayor.

“I remember him when he was sheriff, and I thought he did pretty good then,” Payson said.

At the Portland Expo, a handful of voters were still trickling in about 15 minutes before the polls closed. Ashley Collins, 25, said she voted for Dion.

“I liked his stance on issues and how he wanted to change things, especially homelessness and the public and health safety issues,” she said.

Just down the street from Dion’s celebration, the mood was festive at Woodford Food & Beverage, where Zarro’s supporters gathered. A small group huddled around a projector, watching as election results came in and cheering when his percentage of votes ticked up.

“I cannot believe we are here tonight,” said Zarro, 35, speaking in front of the crowd.


Mayoral candidate Andrew Zarro, center, and April Fournier, at-large city council candidate, left, say hello to voters outside of Woodfords Club in Portland on Tuesday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

“One hundred and ninety days ago we stood out front (of Woodford Food & Beverage) and announced that I was going to run to be the next mayor of Portland, Maine,” he said. “And, oh my god, it’s been an unbelievable journey with each and every one of you being an integral part of it.”

Zarro said he felt optimistic about the results. “I feel wonderful,” he said.

He said a win would tell him that the city is ready to take a step forward toward a new generation of leadership “and embrace hope and growth and unity.”

Zarro is currently on the City Council and came into the race with proposals to build 100 units of transitional housing to address the city’s encampment crisis and 10,000 units of affordable housing. Throughout his campaign, he acknowledged that these are lofty goals. Snyder endorsed Zarro as her second choice.

Rob Schatz, who attended Zarro’s watch party, said his platform, especially wanting to tackle homelessness with affordable housing, resonates with him and that he would like to see queer representation at the mayoral level.

“It would be great to show Portland is an open and diverse community,” Schatz said.



Voting has always been encouraged in Lily Russell’s family. So going to her polling place at the Woodfords Club on Tuesday was a no-brainer, the 21-year-old said.

“It’s a way to help make a change,” she said.

Mayoral candidate Pious Ali greets voters at Grace Baptist Church in North Deering in Portland on Tuesday night. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Russell said she hasn’t closely followed the mayoral race, but she thinks the most important quality in a city leader is that they fight for equal rights of all Portlanders. She said she cast her vote for Ali.

“He has proven to be supportive of the immigrant community and making sure they’re adequately supported,” she said.

Ali, 54, and about 30 of his supporters were gathered at Gateway Community Services at 8:15 p.m. Tuesday. Tables draped in red and blue plastic displayed snacks, cakes and sodas as people trickled in. Friends, supporters and campaign staff chatted, embraced and snapped photos.


Ali arrived right at 8 p.m. after a day spent visiting polling places around the city, where Ali says he thanked voters for turning out.

He said he felt good going into election night, “But I will wait to hear what the people of Portland say before I jump on the couch,” he said.

Either way, he says he feels like a winner.

“For someone like me, from where I’m coming from, to have my name on the ballot running for the mayor of the biggest city in Maine is a reflection of the city and how far we’ve come,” Ali said. “For me that’s a win.”

He is currently the city’s longest serving city councilor, he has sat on the council for nine years and served a term on school board. Ali, who moved to Portland from Ghana more than 20 years ago, has worked as an advocate and educator for immigrants.

Justin Costa greets voters at Grace Baptist Church in North Deering in Portland on election night. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Costa acknowledged Tuesday night that it was clear he will not win the election.


“Obviously I’m disappointed personally, but really I remain concerned for the future of the city and the direction we’re going,” he said.

Costa, 40, previously served on the school board and then on the City Council before losing his council seat to April Fournier in 2020. He positioned himself as a political outsider who has the experience to come in and take realistic actions to get the city back on track.

He and Pugh are unlikely to advance in a ranked-choice runoff on Wednesday.

Of the results in so far, Pugh said “I’m glad to see we’ve had good turnout at the polls and I’ll be waiting on the final numbers.”

Dylan Pugh holds the door for a voter at the First Baptist Church polling location on Casco Road in Portland on election night. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Pugh, 34, entered the race as a political newcomer but held his own in the debates and offered up big ideas about how to help Portland grow sustainably.

Two minutes before the polls closed, Shannon McCaffrey, 40, walked out of the Expo and said she voted for Pugh because he’s a political outsider.

“I should have tuned in more, I came tonight more for the referendums but I wanted someone new to politics,” she said.

Staff Writers Eric Russell and Megan Gray contributed to this report. 

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