PORTLAND, MAINE -- 03/21/22 -- Portland City Councilor Pious Ali observes business at a council meeting on March 21, 2022. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

A version of this article was originally published in The Daily Brief, our Maine politics newsletter. Sign up here for daily news and insight from politics editor Michael Shepherd.

There are five candidates running for mayor in Maine’s largest city after Councilor Pious Ali declared his candidacy this week.

The at-large councilor joins two of his colleagues — Councilors Andrew Zarro and Mark Dion — in the race to replace the outgoing Mayor Kate Snyder, who was elected in 2019 but has declined to run for a second term. Also running are former Councilor Justin Costa and political newcomer Dylan Pugh.

Ali’s entry crowds the field and adds a progressive voice to the mix in a field that is now representing the city’s emerging political spectrum.

The context: A Ghana native, Ali has lived in Portland since 2002 and became one of the state’s first African-born officials when he went to the school board in 2013.

Portland is an overwhelmingly Democratic city where the political divide is generally between those more connected with the business community and a class of more progressive activists. Dion was a liberal state lawmaker but falls closer to the first category in Portland, while Costa lies more toward the middle and Zarro is on his left.

Ali is further to the left as a longtime ally of former Mayor Ethan Strimling. The councilor was one of the relatively few elected officials in the city who backed the mayor in his failed 2019 reelection race after Strimling warred with Jon Jennings, who was the city manager then.

What’s next: After Snyder’s exit, each of Portland’s first three elected mayors in more than a century will have only served one term. The first, Michael Brennan, lost to Strimling in 2015, then Strimling finished third behind Snyder in 2019.

One source of strife has been the limited authority vested in the position, which led to a strong-mayor charter amendment that failed in the 2022 election. While Ali has been aligned with Strimling and progressives, he did not take a position on that item when the Portland Press Herald asked him about it.

The size of the field makes for an uncertain race in November. Portland also uses ranked-choice voting in city races, adding another layer of intrigue to the election.

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after time at the Kennebec Journal. He lives in Augusta, graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and has a master's degree from the University...