How Does a Mayor Get Elected After 88 Years?

Portland Maine Mayor

In 2011 Portland, Maine, was going to elect a mayor by popular vote for the first time in 88 years. There was also an interesting wrinkle on how that vote would occur: Portland had recently implemented ranked-choice voting, meaning voters would rank the 15 competing candidates on the ballot.

At the time we were working with former State Senator Michael Brennan, who was seeking the mayoral seat. The question was: how do you win in ranked-choice voting competing against 14 other candidates? The answer: you strive to be everyone’s number two if you can’t be their number one.

We vowed not to attack any other candidates, and instead focused on our proposed vision for the City. In addition, we made the calculation that we would need to run an aggressive field, mail, and television campaign. We also focused on gathering a broad range of supporters from different organizations across the City to validate Brennan, his track record, and his vision. We also capitalized on Brennan’s recent visit to the White House to discuss policy to help better generate news stories and improve his visibility.

No other candidate spent resources on television, Brennan presented a vision for the City that no other candidate was able to match, and he was willing to engage the community in a conversation about his vision. Thanks to a thoughtful, issue-focused, media-centric campaign, he became the first elected mayor of Portland in 88 years.