Victoria Pelletier smiles as her supporters cheer her victory in Portland's District 2 City Council race Tuesday night. Clapping (right) is Nyalat Biliew, who also won an at-large seat on the school board. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

PORTLAND, Maine — Progressives won two of three city council races in Tuesday’s election with another tight one awaiting a ranked-choice tally, putting them on the cusp of a majority at a pivotal time for Maine’s largest city.

The new council will be at the helm of a changing Portland in the midst of resetting much of its leadership, with a new city manager and police chief and changes to the charter on the way.

Newly elected officials Anna Trevorrow and Victoria Pelletier faced challengers more broadly backed by business leaders, real estate and property management firms and developers. Their elections mark another ripple of a progressive wave that emerged last November, bypassing council leadership to set a new municipal minimum wage, enact rent control and set Green New Deal energy standards to new housing units.

The four-way race for an at-large seat to replace departing councilor Nicholas Mavodones was awaiting a ranked-choice voting that is expected as soon as Wednesday morning, said City Clerk Jessica Grondin. 

After the initial round of voting, former school board chair Roberto Rodriguez (29.1 percent) held slim leads over planning board chair Brandon Mazer (27.7 percent) and retail manager Travis Curran (25 percent). Stuart Tisdale, Jr., a retired history and government teacher, was eliminated.

Pelletier, a political newcomer, took 62.9 percent of votes cast to beat out former Portland councilor Jon Hinck for the city’s District 2 seat representing the West End, Parkside and St. John Valley neighborhoods. The 33-year-old racial equity and economic management specialist for the Greater Portland Council of Governments, said she wanted to redefine the term “affordable housing” so that it applies more specifically to vulnerable residents, and end exclusionary zoning in favor of multi-family units and low-income housing.

Trevorrow, a paralegal and longtime school board member, won 56.3 percent of votes cast to notch the District 1 seat over Sarah Michniewicz, president of the Bayside Neighborhood Association. Trevorrow, a Green, pushed for housing plans prioritizing “socioeconomic diversity,” which includes strengthening inclusionary zoning and incentives for low-income housing.

The District 1 seat represents the city’s most rapidly changing neighborhoods including Bayside, the site of a city-run homeless shelter which voters approved relocating to a 208-bed facility in the Riverton neighborhood near the Westbrook line.

City Manager Jon Jennings left the job on Nov. 1 for a city manager job in Clearwater, Florida. He was a polarizing figure in city politics, becoming a lightning rod for a progressive movement seeking to overhaul the city’s charter in favor of a strong-mayor system. The three outgoing councilors, Belinda Ray in District 1, Spencer Thibodeau in District 2 and at-large councilor Nicholas Mavodones, were favored by chamber and business interests. 

Danielle West has replaced Jennings as interim city manager. She vacated the city’s corporation council position, which is now held by Jennifer Thompson, who was formerly associate corporation counsel.