Olivia Chow has officially entered the race for Toronto's next mayor, the stage is set for an epic battle. The field of candidates is crowded, but it will definitely begin to thin out over the next few months.
I predict the first major candidate to drop out of the
race will be Karen Stintz, a smart woman who unfortunately has a
tendency to swing back and forth all over the place on many issues,
particularly public transit. She even once said she'd never run against
Rob Ford for mayor. She's not the leader Toronto needs in 2014. Once she realizes she can't possibly raise the kind of money she'll need to mount a serious challenge, she'll pull out. I
wish her well in her re-election efforts as a councillor in her ward,
where I'm sure she'll be successful again.
David Soknacki seems like a fringe candidate,
but is being treated like a major contender by much of the Toronto
media. We'll see if he can pull his support out of the single digits.
Yet, I have a feeling he's in the race until the end. But if he fails
to gain much traction, he may only emerge on election day with 3 or 4
percent of the vote, barely registering. But in a close race, that 4%
could be crucial.
With Chow now in the race, the progressive left of Toronto has its champion. But how big is the progressive left in Toronto and can it elect Chow all on its own? Probably not, so she'll need to earn the votes of moderates and centrists in Toronto to win.
It's clear that Toronto's fiscal conservative, red Tory establishment and some of its grassroots have abandoned the Fords and have found their new champion in John Tory, whose campaign in 2014 thus far is off to a fairly good start. His vision and articulated message thus far is simple: he wants a city that is more liveable, more affordable and more functional. And he seems supremely well-suited to deliver on that vision should he be elected.
Tory is gambling that Torontonians aren't ready to elect a leftie mayor again so soon after David Miller and only goofed up electing Rob Ford in 2010 because no better conservatives stepped forward. Of course, whose fault was that? It was Tory's fault for not stepping up when he so clearly should've. Had he, Tory might've kept Ford out of that race and would likely be mayor right now. Toronto would've been spared the circus of the last four years.
Still better late than never, I guess. This is John's last big fight and I'm glad that he's in the race. But Tory's path to victory is going to be very difficult. Between Ford's stubborn/stupid base of support, which may be between 20% and 30% of voters, and Chow's solid claim to progressive voters, which might be between 30% and 35% of voters, it will be very tough for Tory to seize momentum and begin to surge into serious contention.
For Tory to win, he's got to win the lion's share of Liberal votes in this city, which I would estimate make up about 40% to 50% of voters. He can do this if Olivia Chow fails to connect with these voters or scares them with a message that sounds an awful lot like David Miller-redux.
Thus far, the Chow campaign seems more than aware of these pitfalls and their messaging seems quite smart, focusing on Chow's personal family history and character, claiming she understands the value of a dollar, the importance of hard work and the real struggles of ordinary families in this city. With smart, oft-repeated messaging, Chow could overcome what may be an initial handicap and convince enough Torontonians that she has what it takes to be mayor. If she inspires and connects with enough moderate voters, she'll add to the 30-35% she has going in. She won't need a massive amount of Liberals voting for her in order to win.
I'm approaching this race as a pragmatist. I very much like both John Tory and Olivia Chow. I think both of them would bring enormous strengths to the office of the mayor and make our city better.
But my prime concern in this race is removing the psychopathic buffoon currently occupying the mayor's chair. Which ever candidate - Tory or Chow - emerges as the best positioned to win over Ford will get my vote. If polls change and show the race is actually between Tory and Chow while Ford's support nosedives to the low levels he deserves with no serious chance of re-election, then I will have a tough decision to make.