To no one’s surprise, Edmonton City Council’s resident contrarian Kerry Diotte launched his campaign at a downtown hotel this afternoon, making him the first candidate to enter Edmonton’s 2013 Mayoral Election race.
After yesterday’s “final” vote on the proposed downtown arena project, the former Edmonton Sun columnist quickly announced he would soon make an announcement about his political future. Photos leaked to this blog last month suggest Councillor Diotte has been preparing to run for mayor for some time.
The current mayor, Stephen Mandel, is not a fan of Councillor Diotte, shared some harsh words about him on CityTV’s Breakfast Television this morning: “He hasn’t done anything…. He comes to Council and tweets all the time…. He doesn’t pay attention…”
When asked by reporters at today’s press conference about his vision for Edmonton, Councillor Diotte stumbled, citing “listening” and a grocery list of issues including opposing the arena, fixing potholes, and stopping the construction of bike lanes.
If trying to figure out Councillor Diotte’s vision for Edmonton is difficult, so is pinpointing his politics. He has acted as the right-wing contrarian during his three-years on city council and has attached himself to more controversial attention-grabbing issues. This has not made him popular with his council colleagues and has typically placed him in the minority vote on council (he would typically be the “1” in a 12-1 vote).
Though his supporters preach about his populist streak, it feels more gimmicky than real grassroots (his public engagement seems focused on holding contests on his website, like ‘Kerry in your Kitchen,‘ or a contest where he took a constituent to an Edmonton Oilers game).
Council Diotte’s explanation why he wants to be Mayor was not awe inspiring, articulate or well-prepared, but it was frankly reflective of the frustration felt by some Edmontonians about the leadership-style of current city administration. He is a backlash candidate who could appeal to many voters who either disagree with the current mayor or feel left out of Edmonton’s decision-making process.
Despite the many criticisms of Councillor Diotte, he should not be discounted and should, at this point in time, be considered a serious candidate.
The gaggle of Wildrose Opposition Caucus staffers standing at the back of the press conference may give an indication as to how the one-term Councillor plans to build a city-wide political campaign. With the Wildrose Party looking to gain an organizational toe-hold in major Alberta’s cities before the next election, it is easy to understand why their organizers would gravitate toward Councillor Diotte.
Other candidates suspected to be interested in the mayor’s chair include Councillors Don Iveson, Karen Leibovici, and Amarjeet Sohi.