Potential candidates stack up for Portland Charter Commission election

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More than a dozen Portland residents have already taken out nomination papers for the upcoming Charter Commission election.

Headlining the list are several former city councilors, including former Mayor Cheryl Leeman, who held the post before it became a popularly elected position.

Other notable potential candidates include Planning Board member Marpheen Chann, former Councilor Brian Batson, and Em Burnett, an organizer for People First Portland.

There are nine seats available in the June 8 election: four at-large and one in each of the city’s five voting districts. Three other commission members – Michael Kebede, Peter Eglinton, and Dory Waxman – were appointed by the City Council last summer.

Leeman, who took out papers in District 4, was a longtime regional representative for former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and spent 30 years on the City Council. She retired from the council in 2014. 

Chann, an advocate for the immigrant and LGBTQ+ communities, is a communication and education associate at the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine. Chann, who could run for an at-large seat, previously ran for City Council in 2017 and has served on the Planning Board since February 2020.

Also eyeing the at-large seat is Benjamin Grant, a former chair of the Maine Democratic Party who unsuccessfully sought election to the Maine House last year but lost in a primary. Grant also previously served as a senior adviser to Gov. Janet Mills and is a lawyer at McTeague, Higbee & Case, a law firm based in Topsham.

Kenneth Capron, who has run for City Council; Black POWER member Nasreen Sheikh-Yousef, and Lawson Condrey have also taken out at-large papers.

In District 1, Twain Braden and Daniel Stevens have taken out nomination papers, and Peaks Island resident Shay Stewart-Bouley said she planned to do so on Thursday, Feb. 11.

Robert O’Brien has taken out papers to run in District 2. O’Brien is program director at the Maine Development Foundation, a nonprofit organization in Hallowell that promotes economic growth. Also running in District 2 is Burnett, who was a strategist on Mayor Kate Snyder’s successful election campaign. 

In District 3, Zachary Barowitz has taken out papers in addition to Batson, who served one term on the City Council and did not seek a second term.

Marcques Houston has taken out papers to run in District 4. Houston has served on the board of Progressive Portland, is a former organizer for the Maine Democratic Party, and was field director for former Mayor Ethan Strimling’s failed reelection campaign.

And Ryan Lizanecz has taken out papers to run in District 5. Lizanecz announced his candidacy weeks ago on social media, well ahead of when nomination papers were available. He is a law student at the University of Maine School of Law.

Nomination papers are available at the city clerk’s office, Room 24 in the basement of City Hall. The entrance is via Myrtle Street, and masks are required. Papers are due back by March 29.

Candidates running in a specific district must collect a minimum of 75 signatures and a maximum of 150. A candidate running for one of the four at-large seats must collect at least 300 signatures, and no more than 500.