Portland – The
initial results trickling in from Portland’s four-way mayoral election didn’t
look good for Mayor Ethan Strimling, and as the night wore on, they would not
get any better.
The Mayor, a scooter-riding social justice warrior, was struggling to crack 25% in the first round of voting in Portland’s ranked-choice voting system. Kate Snyder, the former Chair of the Portland School Board was far ahead, and Mayor Strimling was in third place, behind Spencer Thibodeau, a member of the city council touting the endorsements of a majority of the current members of the Portland City Council.
Under the city’s ranked-choice voting system, the second-round choices of the voters that had initially gone to Travis Curran, a server turned candidate who had placed last, behind even Strimling in round one, would come in 55% against Strimling. Strimling was still under 29% and stuck in third place. His remaining votes were canceled, his vote total was zeroed out and the preferences of his 5,155 voters redistributed to the two remaining candidates.
Strimling’s anemic first round vote total didn’t even reach 8% of his city’s total registered voters. Even absorbing the second-place votes of another social justice geared candidate didn’t change the dynamics of the election.
Some members of Maine’s political pundit class have sought to frame Strimling’s loss as the result of his failed relationship with his City Manager or the Portland City Council. For many liberals, blaming the loss on process, relationships or conspiratorial plots by “moneyed special interests” allows them to continue to believe that Strimling’s extreme left-wing agenda was popular while the Mayor himself was not.
Occam’s Razor would suggest that while the pundits seek to preserve socialist hegemony over Portland’s political agenda, it was almost certainly that agenda, Strimling’s agenda, that helped doom the sitting Mayor’s re-election.
During his time in office, Strimling pushed aggressively for a number of extreme left-wing policies. That agenda included large spending increases that resulted in higher property tax rates for Portland residents at a time when a strong economy and growing revenue could have been used to stop or reverse some of those property tax increases. This mirrored the modern American left’s approach that no amount of revenue is ever really enough.
Parts of the city continued to struggle with homelessness, crime and visible drug use and abuse in broad daylight, even as the economy boomed.
During the economic boom, Strimling’s focus was largely on advancing a basket of policies that offered little to the working people and property taxpayers of Portland, but that built his own political résumé.
Strimling pushed to provide Portland taxpayer money to the political campaigns of candidates running for city office, even as Portland residents faced property tax increases.
He pushed to allow non-citizens to vote in Portland, going so far as to travel to Augusta to tell a legislative committee that anyone opposed to allowing non-citizen voting was akin to a member of the KKK – despite the fact that many thousands of residents of his own city were crying out against his position.
After watching Strimling and the Portland City Council blow through new revenue at an astonishing rate, then bemoan the fact that they could not fund every project they wanted to fund, it became hard to understand how any of the revenue from Strimling’s sales tax scheme would ever filter back to taxpayers. It seemed there were always a dozen hands waiting for new funding ahead of the taxpayers in Portland.
But perhaps the single action Strimling took that most impacted his re-election bid was his bumbling response to a crisis of his own making.
In what was almost certainly an attempt to inject his name into the national news cycle around the immigration crisis at the southern border, Strimling grandstanded in response to President Donald Trump’s suggestion that he would be considering sending illegal immigrants to so-called sanctuary cities.
What followed became one of the biggest Maine news stories of the year.
Wave after wave of migrants who had crossed the border illegally began to arrive on buses from Texas. Portland’s social safety infrastructure couldn’t keep up. Every shelter was full. The city struck a deal to begin housing migrants at the Portland Expo during the Portland Red Claws’ off-season.
Portland’s municipal welfare program for non-citizens, the only one of its kind had run over budget. City leaders convened to consider changes.
Strimling was publicly called out by a city staffer for his “bring them on” tweet calling for the influx of migrants, which had precipitated the crisis. Strimling refused to relent. He wanted the welfare program to continue unabated, apparently lacking any serious concern that the city was struggling to handle the rising costs.
The summer trudged on. Portland’s housing crunch, which reportedly impacts thousands of working Portlanders, continued. Many of the migrants, who had been provided city aid that had been paid for for by those same working Portlanders, were moved to the front of the line for housing.
The city’s financial situation worsened to the point that Governor Janet Mills jumped in to bail Strimling out, providing emergency funding and changing state rules to provide state welfare to non-citizens.
In the election, Strimling’s opponents talked about the issues that affect the people of Portland. They talked about housing, schools, property taxes and crime. Strimling created bogeymen. He sent fundraising emails attacking outside political figures. He latched on to social justice talking points like a dog with a bone. He riled up the social justice political set in Portland.
He found himself entangled in tit-for-tat exchange of ethics complaints.
Typically, an incumbent Mayor would be looking to address large, diverse crowds of residents on the eve of an election.
In retrospect the rally was symbolic of the Mayor’s new status. Fixated on issues that generated passion with a small band of political activists while tens of thousands of Portland residents went on about the business of everyday life.
On the official election
record, Strimling’s support shrinks to zero in round three, when his votes are
redistributed to the other, more popular candidates.
The irony of that system marking the end of one of Maine’s most combative left-wing Mayors in such a manner is not lost on some Mainers, screenshots showing Strimling at 0% have circulated on social media.
In the “cancel culture” world of today, Portland voters just showed that canceling someone isn’t the exclusive domain of social justice warriors on Twitter. Ordinary people can cancel an elected official at the ballot box if their needs are not being addressed. Liberal politicians are not immune, and Mayor Ethan Strimling’s outcome on Tuesday night is proof.
Portland’s new Mayor, Kate Snyder, will be inaugurated on December 2 in Portland.