The chance to be the city’s first elected mayor in generations is attracting a long list of candidates who also will have the distinction of being the first Maine politicians content to be a voter’s second or third choice, thanks to ranked-choice voting. Ten candidates have registered with the city so far, meaning they are free to raise money and build a campaign organization.
The ballot is expected to get even more crowded in the coming weeks, with candidates attracted by the full-time job — it will pay about $66,000 a year — the four-year term, some limited powers and the ability to set precedents.
“We’re looking for our George Washington, someone who can take the position and transform it,” said Jim Cohen, a former councilor and mayor who was on the charter commission that drafted the rules making the mayor position subject to ranked-choice voting. Voters ratified the charter in November.
Cohen said supporters believe an elected mayor is needed to provide leadership and establish a long-range vision for the city. Currently, mayors are city councilors who are chosen by their peers and hold the largely ceremonial post for one year.
Cohen is now involved in a group called Portland Tomorrow, whose members have developed a list of criteria they’d like to see in a mayor. Cohen reiterated that he’s not running. The organization also plans to publicize the ranked-choice election method, under which voters will mark their ballots not only for the candidate they’d like to see win, but also rank the rest in order of preference.