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Portland Voters Select Progressive, More Diverse Candidates For Charter Commission

YE Top Stories Maine
Robert F. Bukaty
FILE - In this Nov. 3, 2020, file photo, caution tape closes off a voting stall to help distance voters to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus during election day at the East End School in Portland, Maine. In that election, Maine became the the first state to use ranked choice voting in a presidential contest.

Portland voters have elected their first charter commission in over a decade.

The new slate of commissioners is predominantly progressive and includes more people of color than were elected to the commission in 2009.

The commission will be charged with reviewing the city's government structure and potentially recommending changes for voter approval.

Marpheen Chann, who won an at-large seat on the charter commission, says he's the first person of Cambodian descent elected to a city position. He expects to hear diverse perspectives about the direction the city should take.

"This conversation goes beyond the 12 commissioners that are going to be on the commission. It really is a city-wide conversation about having our city reflect our diversity, our values, and who we are as a people and where we want to go," he says.

Voters elected Marcques Houston to represent District 4. He says his priority will be to push for implementation of a publicly financed clean election system, which many voters have said they want.

"I think it's our duty as charter commissioners to honor the voice of the people and get that implemented in the best way possible," he says.

According to unofficial results available on the Portland city website, the winning candidates were:

  • District 1: Shay Stewart-Bouley
  • District 2: Robert O’Brien
  • District 3: Zachary Barowitz
  • District 4: Marcques Houston
  • District 5: Ryan Lizanecz
  • At-Large: Marpheen Chann
  • At-Large: Nasreen Sheikh-Yousef
  • At-Large: Catherine Buxton
  • At-Large: Patricia Washburn

The commission is likely to pay close attention to the role of the city manager, extending voting rights to non-citizens and increasing police oversight.

Voter turnout was about 14% — approximately double the percentage of voters for the 2009 charter commission election.