With Coyne and Leeman leaving, will the Portland City Council become more liberal?

A day after the Portland City Council’s only registered Republican — District 4’s Cheryl Leeman — announced she won’t seek re-election, one of the panel’s more conservative Democrats said he’ll be walking away as well.

District 5 City Councilor John Coyne confirmed to The Forecaster’s David Harry in a Wednesday interview that he won’t seek re-election in the fall, telling my colleague that he’s stepping away to spend more time with his family.

Cheryl Leeman (BDN file photo by Troy R. Bennett)

Cheryl Leeman (BDN file photo by Troy R. Bennett)

Leeman, who spent more than three decades on the City Council and had two memorable stints as mayor back before the position became a popularly elected one, announced on Tuesday she would be finishing up this fall.

Along with fellow former mayor and longtime City Councilor Nicholas Mavodones, Leeman and Coyne represented two of the three councilors to vote against recent measures banning polystyrene food containers and adding 5-cent fees for plastic and paper bags distributed in checkout lines in the city.

For Leeman and Coyne, those votes are representative of their histories on the council as largely pro-business, fiscally conservative councilors.

Coyne works for the Department of Corrections and Leeman was a longtime staffer for former U.S. Rep. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine.

With both stepping down, the stage is set for a potential election season free-for-all, and depending on who voters choose to replace them, could mean an already liberal leaning Portland City Council — which approved the above polystyrene and bag measures, placed a now-threatened buffer zone around the city’s only abortion clinic, and has members who championed the legalization of marijuana — gets more liberal.

Business Insider recently used Clarity Campaign Labs’ data about residents’ views on everything from the federal deficit to gun control to abortion to sea level rise to determine that Portland is the most liberal municipality in Maine, BDN State House Bureau Chief Christopher Cousins wrote.

Randy Billings of the Portland Press Herald has reported that former city mayor and three-term Democratic state representative David Brenerman has expressed interest in Coyne’s District 5 seat. Brenerman has served as a vice president of insurance company Unum and has testified before Congress on behalf of the insurance industry, so he could provide voters with a choice who’s sympathetic to businesses.

In District 4, Justin Costa, who has served on the Portland Board of Public Education since 2008, has reportedly announced intentions to run for Leeman’s vacated seat. Costa, who described himself as just one of 30 young people to have participated in now-President Barack Obama’s 2006 “Yes We Can” political training progam, unsuccessfully campaigned for the Democratic nomination for the House District 115 seat two years ago.

(Thanks to Steven Scharf for pointing out my oversight.)

For what it’s worth, Leeman was challenged in 2011 by attorney Ezekial “Zeke” Callanan.

Callanan said at the time he hoped to encourage more neighborhood interaction by organizing localized social events and creating online communities. He also said he hoped to promote traffic calming measures in areas where constituents have complained about vehicle speeds, as well as “permaculture” designs in homes and buildings throughout the city. (Permacultures also are known as self-sufficient “closed loop” environments where fuel and food are recycled.)

Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.