2013-03-15 / Front Page

‘Dark horse’ wins city council race

By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND — Michael Pock described himself as the dark horse in the special election for the vacant District 1 City Council seat in South Portland last month, but on Tuesday, March 12, Pock won that election by two votes.

Pock, 66, a carpenter and retired Naval officer, defeated three challengers in the election – despite being the only candidate without any municipal government experience on any local boards or committees.

“I’m more surprised than anybody, especially to win by two votes, because I’m the newcomer in the field,” Pock said.

According to results released by South Portland City Clerk Susan Mooney on Tuesday night, Pock finished with 180 votes. His closest challenger was Richard Carter, the current school board chairman, who finished with 178. Robert Foster, a member of the city’s energy and recycling committee, finished with 139, and the tally for Rob Schreiber, a member of South Portland’s planning board, was 111.

Any of the candidates can request a recount or inspect the ballots, Mooney said in an email, but because of the low number of ballots cast she doesn’t expect that to happen.

The 608 total votes represent just over three percent of South Portland’s approximately 20,000 registered voters, although the actual turnout could have been slightly higher if voters wrote in candidates.

Richard Matthews, a member of South Portland’s school board, said in an email the low turnout sends a disturbing message.

“How can anyone complain and be disgruntled with our council when nobody votes?” Matthews asked. “I hope that the next time someone is standing at the podium of a city council meeting complaining or disagreeing with a council panel that they think about whether they voted or not in an election.”

In November’s election, South Portland voters cast more than 12,000 ballots in the only contested council race. Melissa Linscott received 7,144 votes to defeat Rosemarie De Angelis, who received 5,514 in the District 3 election. Linda Cohen, who ran unopposed for the District 4 seat, received more than 11,000 votes.

Pock said poor weather may have had an effect on the turnout, as steady rain and high winds hit South Portland Tuesday night, but he expects apathy was the real reason behind the low numbers.

“I don’t think people were really that interested,” Pock said.

Because of the low turnout, Pock said the hard work leading up to the election putting up signs, knocking on doors and turning out friends and family took on greater importance, as did the support of Maine’s Republican party. But Pock also said the election easily could have swung to any of the four candidates.

After greeting voters at the community center with the three other candidates from 7 a.m., when polls opened, to 8 p.m., when they closed, Pock said South Portland voters couldn’t go wrong no matter what choice they made.

“I got sore feet and so did the other guys. Standing around with those guys, I would have served with any one of them. They all would have been good councilors,” Pock said.

Pock said a solution to the municipal budget deficit caused by state funding cuts will be his top priority when he takes his place on the council. In a candidates’ forum on Tuesday, March 5, Pock said he would not support a property tax increase in the city to make up the lost revenue because he believes both the city and school department “have a surplus of money” they could pare down to balance the books. The council has previously called for a tax rate increase of no more than two percent.

Before he could provide specifics on where those savings could come from, Pock said he and the other six councilors will need to review the budget line by line.

“I won’t know until they swear me in,” Pock said.

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