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Voters Picking Mayor in Portland Election

Maine's largest city picked a new mayor Tuesday.

Portland elected school board member Kate Snyder, receiving 39% of the vote in the first round of ranked-choice voting, according to News Center Maine. City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau followed with 28% of the vote, with both topping sitting Mayor Ethan Strimling's 25%. Travis Curran received 7% of the vote.

In the final round of ranked-choice voting, Snyder's 62% beat out Thibodeau's 38%.

All the candidates said affordability and taxes were their top issues in the election since that's what voters say concerns them most.

"People are just getting squeezed out," said Strimling.

Each candidate has his or her own idea how to fix what's wrong, including raising the city's minimum wage or pushing Maine's state legislature to allow a local sales tax for Portland.

But the biggest factor distinguishing the candidates are their views on Strimling's approach to city government.

Strimling has led successful efforts to renovate Portland's elementary schools, ban pesticides and make other changes. At the same time, however, he has often clashed with many members of the council, most of whom endorsed Thibodeau in the election, while the Press Herald editorial board endorsed Snyder.

"There's an opportunity to change the tone," Snyder said while greeting voters on Tuesday. "The divisiveness has been felt."

Strimling, who has also had intense disagreements with Portland City Manager Jon Jennings, acknowledges he's had to fight, but feels that's what he was elected to do.

"When you're trying to make change and you're trying to protect the working class of the city, you have to fight hard, and they are putting in everything to try to defeat it," said Strimling.

That "everything" includes what could be a historic amount of campaigning.

According to the Portland Press Herald, the four candidates have combined to raise nearly $360,000 in cash. Strimling and Thibodeau both raised over $100,000 on their own, the newspaper reported.

Many of the candidates who ran hope there is some type of election reform in Portland and aggressive fundraising becomes a 2019 outlier, not the norm.

"I don't think anyone likes that aspect of the campaign," said Thibodeau.

"Not everybody has the time and network to raise this kind of money," said Snyder. "It's making it a much more exclusive opportunity."

"I think we have to get big money out of politics," said Strimling. "It's the only way to get every day voices in city hall."

Maine is the only state in the U.S. that uses ranked choice voting in elections.

Portland has used the system since 2011.

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