2015-08-07 / Community

Campaigns kick off for municipal races

By Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

Nomination papers for municipal posts have been available for less than a week in South Portland and Cape Elizabeth, but already the races are shaping up to be interesting contests.

In South Portland, the District 3 and 4 seats currently held by Councilor Melissa Linscott and Mayor Linda Cohen, respectively, are up for grabs, as are the school board seats for Districts 3, 4, and 5. District 3 is being served by school board Chairman Richard Matthews, while District 5 is represented by Tappan Fitzgerald. The District 4 seat is vacant, following the recent resignation of James Gilboy.

Although not legally required to do so, Gilboy cited a potential conflict of interest when tendering his resignation. His wife Beth has accepted a part-time, grant-funded post, overseen by Opportunity Alliance, as parent liaison at Kaler Elementary. The city council, which has the power to name a replacement in the event of a school board vacancy, debated at its July 27 meeting how to proceed, ultimately deciding to leave Gilboy’s seat vacant until November elections.

Cohen, a former city clerk in both South Portland and Portland, won election to her first term on the city council in 2012. She announced on her Facebook page on July 21 that she would seek re-election.

“Hard to believe how quickly the last three years have gone,” she wrote. “I am so proud to serve the citizens of South Portland on our city council, and for the last seven months as Mayor. I try to be reasonable, moderate and always listen to all sides before making a decision. I still believe there is a lot to be done and would like to be part of it, so I have decided to run for re-election to my District Four council seat in November.”

According to City Clerk Susan Mooney, Cohen does not yet have a challenger.

Candidates for public office in South Portland have until Tuesday, Sept. 8 to file nomination papers, which became available July 30. According to Mooney, the forms must contain signatures from at least 100, but no more than 300, registered voters in South Portland. Although candidates must reside within the district they hope to represent, residents may sign any nomination form.

Linscott, also elected to her first term in 2012, has not yet taken out papers to run for re-election. Several sources in and out of city hall have said over the past week that she does not intend to run. She was not available for comment this past week.

If Linscott does decide to get in the race, she will have at least one, and possibly two, challengers.

Buchanan Street resident Eben Rose, a frequent and vocal critic of City Manager Jim Gailey’s administration, particularly the planning and development office, has taken out papers to run for the District 3 seat. Rose was a frequent visitor to the audience microphone during the tar sands debate. More recently he successfully convinced the city to do a re-think on a proposed propane storage facility at Rigby Yard, when he pointed out that the project, as presented, did not appear to meet city codes. He has a fan in City Councilor Brad Fox, who has called him a “hero of the people.”

However, Rose may have a challenger in Matthews, who has taken out papers for his school board seat, as well as the District 3 seat on the city council.

“He’s going to fill out both and decide later which one to turn in,” Mooney said on Tuesday. Matthews could not be immediately reached for comment.

As of Aug. 4, no one had yet taken out papers to run for either the District 4 or 5 seats on the school board, Mooney said.

All city council and school board seats in South Portland are for three-year terms. Although there is a limit of three consecutive terms in office for city councilors, there is no term limit for school board positions, Mooney said.

Meanwhile, over in Cape Elizabeth, Town Councilor Jessica Sullivan is the first person to officially qualify for the ballot in either municipality. According to Town Clerk Debra Lane, Sullivan took out papers July 31 and turned them in Aug. 4.

In Cape, all council seats are at-large, meaning candidates are not required to live in any particular area of town to seek a seat on the board. Sullivan’s threeyear term is up, as are the terms of councilors Jamie Wagner and Jim Walsh. As of Tuesday, neither had yet filed for re-election, Lane said.

However, there is the potential for two new faces in the race. Belfield Road resident Randi Bollenbach had taken out papers to run, Lane said, as has Victoria Volent, of Cottage Farms Road.

Volent is a current member and former chairman of the Cape Elizabeth Planning Board, while Bollenbach has been an active participant at many town council and school board meetings as a member of the audience.

Three seats on the Cape Elizabeth Board of Education also are up for grabs, with terms of office ending for John Christie, David Hillman and Mary Williams Hewitt. None had filed for re-election as of Tuesday. Those who have already taken out papers include former school board member Elizabeth Scifres, who lost her seat last November in a three-way race for two open seats against incumbent Joanna Morrissey and former school superintendent Barbara Powers. Also in the running this year is Philip Road resident John Voltz. The vice president of business development at Orono-based Cerahelix, a water filtration and treatment company, Voltz was politically active most recently in circulating a petition to try and convince the town council to rescind proposed cuts to the Cape school budget.

According to Lane, candidates for public office in Cape must collect between 25 and 100 signatures from registered voters. Residents may sign multiple nomination forms. Completed nomination forms are due to Lane by 4 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 4.

Also up for grabs this year is a five-year term on the Portland Water District Board of Trustees, representing both South Portland and Cape Elizabeth. Forms for the post, now held by John Brady, must be picked up and completed in both municipalities, with signatures required from at least 100 registered voters in South Portland, and 25 from Cape Elizabeth.

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