In addition to the shared belief that RCV begets a more civil campaign — you can't trash-talk an opponent if you want his supporters' second-place votes — political observers say it requires a blanket effort. Former Maine League of Young Voters director Will Everitt, who writes the "Mayor Watch" column for the West End News, warns candidates not to think of the mayoral election like a city council at-large election, which is decided by plurality.
"For this election, you have to do well in all districts — you can't ignore a district and come out with a majority vote," he says.
4) Do voters understand RCV?
We'll see. Even if voters get the basic concept of RCV, the ballot stands to be visually perplexing. Learning Works executive director Ethan Strimling, himself a longtime supporter of instant run-off voting, admits that "my concern is that the ballot will be confusing," adding that he believes this type of system is preferable "in a situation where you have a winnowing" of candidates (such as a primary).
5) How much money will candidates raise?
The responses range from "not one penny" (that's from Jay York, who also says he is "not at all interested in the position" but rather is running to "make people aware that this is not a good thing for Portland") to $50,000-$60,000 (that's the general consensus among the so-called "top-tier" candidates such as Strimling, Brennan, and Mavodones). Markos Miller is aiming for $35,000 but thinks he could do it "for half that." Erick Bennett assures us that "I'll end up raising a lot of money," which he'll spend on "a big bash." David Marshall believes some candidates are "overprojecting" how much the campaign will cost. Chris Vail, who aligns himself with the city's "blue-collar citizens," says the amount of money required is "discouraging and daunting."
6) What's up with the longshots?
"My take . . . is that there aren't more than five or six that I would characterize as credible," says longtime political observer (and former city councilor, and elected-mayor opponent) Orlando Delogu. "And by credible I mean having a certain combination of substance and gravitas and experience that would identify them as someone who might move the ball in some creative direction."
What do you mean? You don't find the probation violator who's been ordered into a substance-abuse program credible? (That's Zouhair Bazrara, who in January told the Phoenix he wanted to turn Portland into "a mini Dubai" if elected.) You're not convinced of Erick Bennett's gravitas when you look at his shirtless/sleeveless muscle pics on Facebook? What about when you read the scathing screeds published in perennial candidate Charles Bragdon's self-published Portland Maine Gazette (in one issue, the now online-only publication ran a piece that referred to Bennett as "the dirty, smelly dingle berry hanging out from his gym thong which he likely enjoys tightly nestled up his arse")?
There are non-crazy longshots too, like Paul Schafer, production photographer at WMTW; Peter Bryant, a retired Portland firefighter and merchant seaman; Richard Dodge, a caterer and real-estate agent. These candidates don't make us cringe (Schafer, in fact, speaks eloquently about the intersection of beauty and politics), but unless they have hidden caches of money, name recognition, and media savvy, they'll have a difficult time gaining traction.