Councillors Shelley Carroll, Adam Vaughan, Kristyn Wong-Tam all join Olivia Chow as candidates for mayor of Toronto in 2014.
OMG! would come the anguished cry from anyone and everybody on the centre-left of the political spectrum. They’re splitting the vote! This’ll guarantee [fill in your right of centre candidate of choice here] the mayor’s office. Catastrophe!
Yet here we are, two high profile conservative candidates, Councillor Karen Stintz and John Tory, entered the mayoral race yesterday in a bid against ultra-right wing Mayor Rob Ford, joining self-declared moderate right wing candidate David Soknacki in what has become a very, very crowded field on the right.
Where are the alarm bells from the respective conservative camps?
In 2010, Rob Ford was the only credible (and I’m using that word very specifically in this situation) conservative candidate still operational at the finish line, and he garnered 47% of the vote. Meanwhile, I think it’s safe to say, few on the left were truly content with their options but yet, between the two of them, George Smitherman and Joe Pantalone, they came in with over 46%. The slightest of cracks on the right and this thing’s wide open. What we’re looking at now is more like multiple fractures.
Not only does one of these candidates need to get a solid majority of conservative voters in under their tent but they have to do so while attracting at least a chunk of progressive voters. Moderate, will be the pose in the hopes that enough people are tired of the turmoil that’s come with the current administration. Crackless conservatism, let’s call it.
What’s the calculation for the percentage of crazy plus the power of incumbency Mayor Ford will have going for him? Given the kind of name recognition the mayor possesses, not necessarily all favourable, what’s the number you write off as unassailably Ford? Just how potent is Ford Nation?
Disregard the 42% he’s regularly clocked in at Forum Research polls. Favourability does not equate into reliable voter intention. 30%? 25%? 20%?
Any of those types of numbers from Mayor Ford this time around dooms the conservative cause. Even at the low end, that would mean Soknacki, Stintz or Tory would have to take the rest of the right of centre vote and nearly all of Smitherman’s numbers from last time out in the hopes of winning it all. So a collapse of conservative votes into two uneven camps and scooping every centrist and soft left supporter to boot. Not undoable but certainly a tall order.
Traditionally, mayoral elections in Toronto have ultimately come down to two candidate races. Over the long haul of 10 months, the field gets winnowed down, attrition takes its toll. It wouldn’t be surprising to see something like the 2010 campaign pattern emerge again this year. The third place finisher, say Mayor Ford, holding on to his 10-20% rabid followers. The top two, one, a redder shade of blue, the other, deep, deep red, vying for the remaining, 75-85% of voters.
But this time around, we got some big names duking it out, much bigger names than four years ago. More money behind them. Better organizations. I’d argue that even the truly unknown candidate, David Soknacki, has a higher name recognition than 2010’s two fall by the waysiders, Rocco Rossi and Sarah Thompson. Looking for an early knockout may not be a sound strategy.
So in the early stages of this campaign, every declared candidate needs to stake out their conservative ground and then paint their opponents who aren’t Rob Ford as further left than they are (and I’ll exclude David Soknacki from that assertion as he seems busy just defining who he is as a candidate). So Karen Stintz and John Tory immediately state their subway preferences (because true conservatives believe in only subways as a viable form of public transit) and their adherence to the low taxes that will magically pay to build them. Expressing otherwise is pretty much Bolshevism.
“Karen Stintz says she’s worried about pendulum swing back to NDP government,” CTV’s Natalie Johnson tweeted after the councillor had registered to run. “Says Toronto has had enough of that.”
“There is no such thing as right of centre,” Mayor Ford told the press later in the day. Only the mayor and everybody else who is two steps left of Stalin. Right is not right. Right is right, if you get what the mayor’s trying to get at.
Nothing to see here, folks. Just a bunch of mayoral candidates, touting conservative values. If we are all right of centre, then right of centre ceases to be a defined position. It simply is the place from which everyone campaigns from.
Of course, the possibility exists that once a truly progressive candidate emerges, and if only one emerges, the optics of everyone together on stage or in a television studio might be that they are the odd one out. Four right of centre candidates versus one from the left. The power of numbers, suggesting, giving more legitimacy to the majority view. The left of centre pushed out to the fringes, not to be taking seriously.
Even if that were to happen, the scenario still exists of four candidates vying for enough of the electoral slice of the pie to put one of them over the top. Vote splitting, in other words. There are only so many conservative votes to go around. The real battle this year might not be for the mayor’s office but for a workable slice of the 383,501 votes Rob Ford had all to himself in 2010.
You do the math.
— by the numbersly submitted by Cityslikr