Mark Dion will be Portland's next mayor
After five rounds in a ranked-choice runoff, Mark Dion has emerged as the winner of Portland's mayoral race. The results were revealed Wednesday morning at city hall.
The former Cumberland County sheriff and state lawmaker won 51.5% of the vote, narrowly beating out City Councilor Andrew Zarro, who ended the runoff with 48.5%. Zarro outpolled City Councilor Pious Ali, as well as former councilor Justin Costa and political newcomer Dylan Pugh in the later rounds of the runoff.
Dion, who also currently serves on the city council, made affordable housing, public safety and homelessness as priorities in his mayoral campaign.
He said he believed voters want to see decisive action on Portland's homelessness crisis. And he has plans to speak with local judges and the district attorney about potential options for unhoused people needing treatment for substance use and mental health disorders.
"The court doesn't have to be used as a punitive measure. It can be used to provide formal intervention and to direct certain individuals into the services they need," Dion told reporters, shortly after the ranked-choice runoff results had been revealed Wednesday morning. "When I talk about taking them to court, it isn't to punish. It's to direct and to manage their conditions. Because right now their substance use disorder or their mental health crisis is not something that they've demonstrated an ability to manage themselves. So we need to take an active role in directing them to where they need to go."
Dion will replace Kate Snyder as mayor, who did not run for a second term. He and the new members of the Portland City Council will be sworn in Dec. 4.
But before they take office, the city's existing council is expected to make some difficult decisions of its own.
The city council next week will consider, for a third time, a measure that would add 50 more beds to the Homeless Services Center. And earlier this week, two city councilors proposed a measure that would temporarily ban the practice of clearing tent encampments in Portland throughout the winter.
"I don't think as an individual councilor, or as they mayor, that that's the direction that I want us to go," said Dion. "It's clear to me in my conversations with residents of this city, it's not a direction that they want to go. But I understand why those councilors feel that it is a consideration and possibly a way forward."
Instead, Dion said he hopes the council will delay consideration of the measure until he and the other members are sworn into their new roles.