What we learned from the race

Mayoral Aftermath
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  November 16, 2011

As of last Tuesday, Portland has its first elected mayor in many decades; Michael Brennan will take office December 5 and serve a four-year term. As Brennan set to work meeting city manager Mark Rees, with whom he will work closely, and publicizing his priorities — including helping the Portland Public Schools find a new superintendent and visiting local businesses to identify problems and raise awareness about city grants and loans —a few runners-up reflected on the race.

"I tried," said firefighter Chris Vail, who came in ninth place in the first round, in an email to the Phoenix. "Who knew common sense would be such a tough sell here in Portland? I feel good, I feel I brought a voice to politics that is rare. I will continue to keep my voice and the common sense fight alive. I wish the best for Mayor Brennan and also want to create a high level of accountability for this new position. By January I want to create a series of benchmarks that will allow us to monitor the progress of the mayor."

Deering High school Spanish teacher Markos Miller, who placed seventh in the first round of voting, vowed to "continue to be involved in a wide range of issues." Specifically, "the next phase of Franklin is getting ready to get fired up," he said, referring to discussions around re-envisioning Franklin Arterial.

Political observer and West End News columnist Will Everitt says he was surprised by "how much some of the lower candidates were able to raise," such as Jed Rathband, who placed fifth and collected about $30,000 (plus an additional $11,000 from a dedicated PAC, the Portland Committee for Economic Development).

"It's crucial if you want to get your name out," Rathband said on the phone this week, pointing out that the four candidates who bested him (including city councilor Dave Marshall, who raised way less money — about $14,000 — and came in fourth place) already enjoyed some degree of citywide name recognition.

Everitt and Rathband both remarked on how certain candidates spent their money. Mayoral runners-up Ethan Strimling and Nick Mavodones, for example, who respectively raised more than $80,000 and just less than $50,000, both employed consultants. "It seems poorly spent," Everitt said. Brennan, on the other hand, who raised more than $40,000, was the only candidate who chose to run a television ad. There were a handful of radio ads promoting other candidates.

In August, we published "20 Questions About Portland's Upcoming Mayoral Election," (by Deirdre Fulton, August 12), in which we pondered why there weren't more female contenders, how ranked-choice voting would affect the race (not to mention whether voters would embrace the method), and how much money candidates would need to raise. Over the last few months, culminating in Election Day, some of those questions were answered; we may never know why more women weren't interested in running for mayor, or how certain longshots gained traction, but we do know that while ranked-choice voting (which worked in this election just as it was supposed to) didn't give newcomers a leg up, it did require candidates to be visible throughout the city and engage with each other.

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