A car drives by an election day voting sign on outer Congress Street in Portland on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

PORTLAND, Maine — Three progressives won seats on Portland’s school board in Tuesday’s special election after a ranked-choice runoff.

Nonprofit manager Sarah Lentz and former Maine Democratic Party Chair Benjamin Grant, were leading a seven-person field for at-large seats for six-month terms with 35.9 percent and 24.6 percent of votes in the first round of voting, respectively. 

Grant led the nearest opponent by more than 1,100 votes and narrowly outpolled Lentz when second-place votes were counted at City Hall on Wednesday morning.

Sarah Brydon will be the newest school board member for Portland’s District 5, which includes the North Deering, Deering Center and Riverton neighborhoods, for a two-year term. She led overwhelmingly with around 45 percent of votes in the first round. That was far ahead of ​​Joshua Haefele, the runner-up, who received 19 percent.

Lentz, Grant and Brydon were all endorsed by Progressive Portland, an activist group linked to former Mayor Ethan Strimling. A total of 12 candidates ran in both races, with seven going for two at-large seats representing all of Portland and five running in District 5. 

The new members will join a board pushing forward equity efforts, especially for ESL students, students of color and those with disabilities, and that continues to address the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on education.

“I’m grateful to Portland voters for again showing their strong support for the direction of Portland Public Schools and our focus on equity. I look forward to seeing the final results tomorrow and congratulate all of the candidates who ran.”

Around 76 percent of residents also voted for the $133.1 million school budget for the 2022-23 year and around 68 percent to continue the budget validation process for three more years.