This blog has been silent for the past couple of months. In large part, it’s due to the challenge of finding time to write, but also having been away for work and then vacation, fallen out of the habit of updating it. I intended to write more about the Edmonton Civic Election, but other sites have provided good coverage, and the Edmonton Journal has a good roundup of the announced candidates.
Lots has happened since May. Another incumbent, Ron Hayter, announced his intentions to retire, several more candidates declared publicly and began campaigning, and a(nother) potential referendum on the City Centre Airport has started to overshadow everything else.
With the Journal’s roundup, I don’t see a need to keep updating a list of candidates, 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 will probably be the extent of my coverage here. Keep in mind this is just my impression, and it will no doubt change as we get closer to both nomination day and election day.
The races are ranked from most to least competitive, 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.
This is a total crapshoot. I could see these four finishing in any order at this point. They all have strengths and weaknesses, and are all out there. Bergdahl has a long history of community involvement, but is untested as a candidate. Luthra has ties to the community, but is also untested. Okelu has name recognition from running before, but has never been elected, and was surpassed by Amarjeet Sohi in the ’07 Ward 6 race. Diotte is well known, and has 2007 candidate Chuck McKenna (who did well in these polls) managing his campaign, but you have to think he’s going to be polarizing to some extent, given his out-spoken views.
If I were to guess right now, I’d say the most likely order of finish is 1) Bergdahl 2) Okelu 3) Diotte 4) Luthra. But like I said, I can see those four in any order come election day.
2. Ward 3
Declared: Terry Demers, Dave Loken
This is the other race without an incumbent, and it could get competitive in a hurry.
Loken, a leader with the Coalition of Civic Unions and the runner-up in ’04 and ’07 (in Ward 2), declared a few months back, and has been campaigning.
His challenger at the moment is Terry Demers. Demers ran in Ward 5 in 2004, and for the past several years worked as Ron Hayter’s Executive Assistant at City Hall. She won’t be well-known to the public, but she will know many of the key players and community leaders in Ward 3 well.
Loken should have a strong advantage, having a several month head start on Demers. Yet, he hasn’t come particularly close to Krushell or Hayter the past two elections, and didn’t really grow his vote from ’04 to ’07. I think he’s the favourite at this point, hence why this is listed as ‘competitive’ not ‘toss-up’, but I would not overlook Terry’s chances here.
Tony Caterina, the incumbent, is not necessarily in friendly territory here. He is working hard to get out there, but he also finished third here in ’07 (behind Gibbons and Voogd), and I’m not sure the Alberta Ave/Highlands area is the most receptive to a fiscal conservative message, or a pro-ECCA argument, the two issues most people likely associate him with.
That’s not to say Van Alstine will knock him off. He’s worked hard and campaigned for months, but Caterina likely has the money advantage, and he has been out in the community. I still see Tony as the man to beat here, but as we start to get a clearer picture closer to election day, that may change.
Henderson should be safe. He’s a well-respected, hard-working councillor just finishing his first term. Yet his challengers (at least Heaney, I haven’t seen enough of Razga to comment) are running hard. He certainly won’t be able to coast to victory, nor do I think he intends to, but the margin could end up closer than we think.
All things aside, I think Jane Batty is the most (or second most) vulnerable incumbent in this election. This is not a comment on her performance, rather an observation that – whatever the reason – she’s been unable to grow her vote in her two re-election bids. She edged out Ben Henderson and Lewis Cardinal to finish first in Ward 4 last election, but in a head-to-head race against either may not have been so lucky. I think in 2010, either would win fairly comfortably against her.
But, she’s ranked here because I haven’t seen much from her two opponents yet that convinces me they’ll be able to challenge her. She may get lucky and avoid a serious challenger in 2010, but if she seeks any subsequent terms, I doubt she’ll be so lucky.
Linda Sloan is another incumbent who could be in trouble in the right situation – despite her work in the community and on the seniors’ file, she’s been vocal on some controversial issues, and she’s not the media’s favourite, but for now she seems safe. Both Knack and Post have strong backgrounds in the communities, and are solid candidates, but neither seems to have caught on yet.
7. Ward 4
Declared: Dan Backs, Ed Gibbons, Scott Robb
Two former Liberal MLAs square off, with a young “Father, Husband, Security Officer, Ordained Satanic Priest” aiming to play spoiler.
Gibbons is now a three-term incumbent on Council, and has earned a reputation as a steady, if not spectacular performer. He’s been very effective working with the Capital Region Board, and is notable for introducing the motion last summer for a phased closure of the Edmonton City Centre Airport.
Backs is a one-term MLA (2004-08). Elected as a Liberal, he was kicked out of the caucus, then sat (and ran) as an independent, finishing third. He shouldn’t be a serious challenge for the popular Gibbons, but Backs did well running as an independent in ’08, and he’ll appeal to pro-ECCA voters. There’s enough here to think that it might become interesting.
Sohi is a popular, hard-working one-term incumbent. He should have no problem earning re-election, though unlike some of his council colleagues he does have a declared opponent.
I can’t see Mayor Mandel losing, but since the Mayoral race is actually contested at the moment, it ranks ahead of four Council races that aren’t.
Mandel’s strongest competitor figures to be Don Koziak, the 2007 runner-up. Koziak, who previously ran for Council three times and lost, earned 25% of the vote, despite not declaring until nomination day, and not really campaigning. With better funding, an earlier public start, and a more aggressive campaign, he should be able to do better, but I still think his ceiling for support is too low to win.
The loser from Koziak’s entry in the race is Daryl Bonar, the young member of the Armed Forces who was the first challenger to declare, and had taken a pro-ECCA stance (which figures to be overshadowed by Koziak’s presence). I had the pleasure of having lunch with Lt. Bonar a couple of months back. He is very sincere, and is doing a lot of positive work in the community, and will continue to – politics or not. That said, he was still learning the issues, and I’m still to be convinced that he’s ready to be Mayor. I hope he considers running for Council in the future though, and I suspect many who have met him feel the same way. His upside seems to be a distant third, though he would warn me (and others) not to underestimate him. He won’t lose for a lack of trying, that’s for sure.
Andrew Lineker is in the same boat, and figures to gather a handful of votes but not much more. Same for Carol Ann Boudreault-Handy, who has yet to put a website up. Dave Dowling is Dave Dowling. He’ll probably do about as well as he does every election.
I’ve grouped all four together since the incumbent in each one has no declared opponent yet. In terms of vulnerability, I’m still expecting a pro-airport candidate to challenge Krushell, since she represents the Kingsway/ECCA area. I’ve previously written about how Anderson could be vulnerable in the right circumstances. Iveson and Leibovici should be safe; the most serious competition they may see is people jockeying for name recognition and positioning themselves for 2013, when they figure the incumbents will be running for Mayor – opening up those seats.
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.
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