Pyramid Power: Ranking the 2010 Edmonton City Council Races

Following Sunday’s post about the announced and rumoured candidates for Edmonton City Council, I want to take a look at how each race is shaping up. I’ve ranked the 13 races from most to least competitive, putting them in four categories:

Toss-Ups: No clear favourite, and could go any of two or more ways at this point.
Competitive: A leading candidate/favourite at this point, but a race that should be a close vote and could go another way.
Leaning Safe: A safe seat for now, but could become competitive or a toss-up in the right circumstances.
Safe: A safe seat for the incumbent, which doesn’t figure to change without something dramatic happening.

The rankings will change as candidates announce their intentions, and as the campaign moves into full swing. It’s intended to be a snapshot of how the election is shaping up at this moment.

A few caveats:

1. I based the rankings primarily around a few criteria: incumbency (and strength thereof), strength of candidates, and 2007 results.
2. These are somewhat subjective, but I think most observers would agree with the ballpark ranking for each race. I’ve done my best to make the rankings as objective as possible.
3. These are by no means meant to discourage anyone from running. Things can change, and because a race is listed as ‘safe’ now doesn’t mean it will remain that way.

A point, and a couple of examples to keep in mind:
– City-wide turnout in 2007 was 26%, and the highest turnout a given ward saw was around 35% (Ward 5), meaning there are plenty of disengaged voters for a candidate to mobilize.
– In 2007, we would have probably ranked Ward 5 as “Safe” or “Leaning Safe” for the two incumbents (Bryan Anderson and Mike Nickel) as of May 17. There’s still 5 months of campaigning, and things can change, as they did in that race, where Don Iveson ended up beating Nickel.
– Similarly, in 2004, we might have ranked the Mayoral race as “Competitive” on this date, but talked about how incumbent Bill Smith and repeat challenger Robert Noce figured to be in a close race. Eventual winner Stephen Mandel would have been seen as a distant third, and a long shot at that point. So don’t get discouraged if you or someone you know is running or thinking about it. To use a sports analogy, there’s a lot of game left at this point.

Without further ado, here’s where the races sit as of May 17, ranked from most to least competitive. I intend to update them every month or so leading up to nomination day.

Finally, a big thank you to the handful of readers who have sent in or posted tips over the past couple of days.

City Hall at Night


1. Ward 11
Confirmed: Shane Bergdahl
Probable: Chinwe Okelu
Possible: Chuck McKenna

There will be no incumbent in this race, and nobody figures to start as an overwhelming favourite. Okelu did well here in ’07, finishing second behind Thiele. But this will also be his fifth run for Council, and he was lapped by Sohi last election, who he finished ahead of in ’04. Bergdahl has a strong community league background, but is untested as a candidate. McKenna finished just over 100 votes behind Okelu in these polls last election, and would be well-positioned if he ran here.

2. Ward 3
Confirmed: Dave Loken
Probable: Ron Hayter
Possible: Jabin Caouette, Kerry Hutton

Dave Loken, who finished a distant third in Ward 2 (behind Hayter and Krushell) in 2004 and 2007, has declared here. If Hayter runs again, this figures to be his Ward.

If Hayter declares here, I may eventually move this race to ‘Competitive’, but even with his presence, I see this being a toss-up. Hayter’s vote plateaued in 2007, and he was lapped by Krushell. More importantly, I get the impression that many voters, and some prominent voices in the media, believe it’s time for him to move on.

Loken starts the race in a good position, but his performance in ’04 and ’07 indicates that he’s not a shoo-in. He’ll be lucky if Caterina runs in 7, and Diotte in 6 – both of them would have a good chance at this seat. But either way, I expect other challengers to step up in the next month or two, which is why this remains a toss-up.


3. Ward 7
Confirmed: Tony Caterina, Brendan Van Alstine
Possible: Kyle Balombin, Chris Martin, Carrie Thuesen, Harvey Voogd

Caterina starts as the favourite, until we see how much traction Van Alstine (or another candidate) has in the community.

If Harvey Voogd is in the race, it moves to toss-up. Voogd finished ahead of Caterina in these polls by about 1% (roughly 200 votes) in ’07, and while most incumbents see a bump in their vote total from their first election to subsequent ones, Caterina has been polarizing, so I’m not convinced he’ll see one.

In any case, this race is eminently winnable for a challenger, but they should get out there right away, and will need to run a strong campaign. A greater number of challengers could also work to Caterina’s advantage, allowing him to win a split race with a lower vote share.

4. Ward 1
Confirmed: Andrew Knack, Jamie Post, Linda Sloan

Two community activists, Andrew Knack and Jamie Post, have declared, and insiders have indicated that incumbent Linda Sloan is running here.

I see Sloan starting as a strong favourite, but vulnerable in the right circumstances. She’s not the most universally popular councillor amongst media, and doesn’t live in this Ward, both of which could work against her. That said, it would take a really strong challenger and well-run campaign to knock her off.

5/6. Wards 6/8
Ward 6
Confirmed: Jane Batty/Ben Henderson
Probable: Kerry Diotte

Ward 8
Confirmed: Jane Batty/Ben Henderson, Lori Heaney, Hana Razga
Possible: Debbie Yeung

I will adjust these two once Jane Batty and Ben Henderson declare their intentions. I think Ben’s safe, and Jane is in trouble in the right circumstances.

Though Batty finished first in 2007, it was close. She hasn’t appreciably grown her vote share since first being elected in 2001, and on a preferential ballot, probably would have fallen behind Henderson and Lewis Cardinal in ’07. It’s a shame, because she is a very good Councillor, but she’s been unable to move her vote total. In 2007, she got the vote of 41% of voters in the Ward 6 polls, and 36.5% in Ward 8, the lowest vote share of any incumbent city-wide. Against a strong candidate (such as Cardinal head-to-head), I’d have her race as a toss-up. Unless he’s facing a strong challenger, I will move Ben’s race to “Leaning Safe” once he declares.

As for the challengers, I think Ward 6 might be a struggle for Diotte, I’m not sure it’s the most receptive area to a low taxes/tough on crime message (which I figure will be cornerstones of his campaign). I haven’t seen enough from Heaney and Razga to know how they’ll match up against the incumbent. Heaney did very well in the polls that carry over to Ward 8 (only 4 of them, in the area she lives), but we need to see what kind of broad appeal she has before drawing conclusions from those. Getting out and doorknocking now, as I’ve heard they are, will bolster both Razga’s and Heaney’s chances.

Leaning Safe

7. Ward 2
Confirmed: Kim Krushell
Probable: Ron Hayter
Possible: Jabin Caouette, Kerry Hutton, Don Koziak, Shelly Tupper
Kim Krushell starts as the favourite here, and figures to remain the favourite even if Ron Hayter runs here. But there’s enough to think that he’d keep the race competitive, or if there really is an organized campaign by ECCA supporters, she could be in for a tight race. I think this will move to safe as we get closer to the election, but for now there are a few outstanding questions.

8. Ward 9
Confirmed: Bryan Anderson
Possible: Lewis Cardinal, Donna Finucane, Brent Michalyk
Bryan Anderson is running here. He’s represented the area for 12 years, works hard in the community, and is well-liked. Yet, in the right circumstances, he could be in for a fight. For one, he lives in the new Ward 10, not in this Ward. Further, living in Ward 5 during the last election, I heard many people express that they felt that he’d been around long enough. I suspect his support has peaked. A strong candidate with roots in the community could give him a run for his money.

9. Ward 4
Confirmed: Dan Backs, Perry Chahal, Ed Gibbons, Scott Robb

Ed Gibbons is popular in the Ward, but has two interesting challengers. Backs retained a decent base of support, even after getting kicked out of the Liberal caucus, and Chahal, a former School Board candidate who is well-connected. I think this moves to the ‘safe’ category as we approach the election, but for now I’m waiting to see what Backs and Chahal put forward in their campaigns.


10. Ward 10
Confirmed: Don Iveson

Don Iveson is popular, and has performed well during his first term on Council. Though some of the more fiscally conservative citizens don’t like him, I suspect they figure it’s not worth the effort to challenge him this time around.

Many assume Iveson is going to run for Mayor in 2013, so the most serious contenders you might see here are people trying to position themselves for this seat three years from now, when they figure it will be open.

11. Ward 12
Confirmed: Amarjeet Sohi

Sohi did very well here in ’07. When you factor in the advanced polls, it’s likely that he outperformed Thiele in this area (despite earning less votes on election day). He’s popular, and has done will in his first term, and doesn’t figure to face a serious challenge. He’ll likely be a fixture here for the next few terms.

12. Ward 5
Confirmed: Karen Leibovici
Leibovici is well-liked in her ward, works hard, and earned the largest vote share of any candidate for Council in ’07. Sounds like a safe seat to me.

13. Mayor
Confirmed: Stephen Mandel, Daryl Bonar
Probable: Dave Dowling
Possible: Don Koziak
For the second consecutive election, Mayor Mandel figures to run without any serious competition (with all due respect to Daryl Bonar). As I mentioned in Sunday’s post, I could see a couple of people running to position themselves for Council or Mayoral bids in the future, but not seriously threatening the Mayor.

This ranks as the safest seat, however, for two reasons: first, I’m struggling to think of anyone who would be willing and able to challenge him, and could get the 45% of the vote or better that would likely be needed to win this race. Second, while I can envision someone being able to raise money and organize a ward-wide campaign against a ‘Safe’ incumbent, I’m not sure a challenger could raise the money city-wide at this point to mount a serious Mayoral bid. Mandel is safe, unless things dramatically change.

The Edmonton Civic Election, where the Mayor, City Council, and School Trustees will be elected to three year terms, will be held on Monday, October 18th.


7 Responses

  1. Great run down! However, the likelihood of Lewis Cardinal running for council before the next federal election is slim. He has invested too much time/resources into his campaign in Edmonton Centre. Also, Anderson is seeking to represent a ward where many residents lack established roots (area has expanded significantly over the last 10 years). It may be difficult for him to rely on his lengthy record/name recognition in the community from his time in office and lengthy teaching career at Harry Ainlay.

  2. Good breakdown. For the most part, I would have to agree with your assessment. It will be an interesting race in Ward 11. I may not have been tested in Municipal Politics however I am ready for the challenge. Lots of hard work ahead but I will be successful in my bid.

    I look forward to your future articles. You seem to have a good take on things.


    Shane Bergdahl

  3. […] be online with words, photos, and videos. There will be straightforward reporting on wards, candidates and issues. But we also want to have fun and offer satirical and sarcastic takes on the same. There […]

  4. […] be online with words, photos, and videos. There will be straightforward reporting on wards, candidates and issues. But we also want to have fun and offer satirical and sarcastic takes on the same. There […]

  5. […] but I do think it’s time to once again rank the races from most to least competitive (here are my May rankings). I intend to update these rankings a few more times as we get closer to the election, but that […]

  6. […] think it’s time to once again rank the races from most to least competitive (here are my May rankings). I intend to update these rankings a few more times as we get closer to the election. Keep in mind […]

  7. Chuck McKenna is Kerry Diotte’s campaign manager.

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