In what is the first profile of various races across the city in the 2007 Edmonton Municipal Election, here are my thoughts on the race for Mayor:
The 2007 race for the Mayor’s Chair is clearly much different race than the race we saw in 2004.
Three years ago, three-term Mayor Bill Smith was shooting for a fourth-term against second-time challenger and former Councillor Robert Noce, and little known first-term Ward 1 Councillor Stephen Mandel. In what is one of the biggest ‘come-from-behind’ wins in recent municipal election memory, Mandel moved from a distant third in the polls to achieve a sweeping +20,000 victory against Smith and Noce.
Since 2004, it appears to me that Mandel has done a fairly decent job as Mayor, though it’s sometimes difficult to tell whether he is actually being a good Mayor or if the breath of fresh air after nine years of the institutional mediocrity under Bill Smith is helping Mandel out. Whatever the case, Mandel has succeeded in scaring away any serious contenders from challenging his Worship.
Even though there is a thick list of nine candidates in the running for Mayor, none of them pose a large threat to Mandel, which is disappointing if you’re concerned with democratic debate and accountability.
The only semi-serious candidate running against Mandel seems to be hotel operator, self-professed genius, and Ed Stelmach-apologist Don Koziak. Koziak could have been a decent candidate, but his previous three losing Council campaigns coupled with his hasty last minute entrance into the election seriously undermine his credibility against Mandel. Also, Koziak’s complete lack of a platform coupled with his bizarre statement about global warming have to make you wonder what it takes to get into Mensa these days…
Of course, if you are looking for some purely bizarre entertainment, the Mayoral race is where to look – where wingnuts such as Dave Dowling and Bill Whatcott will most likely try to steer the debate away from any real issues.
Mandel has hinted that he would only serve two terms as Mayor, so if this is truth, expect a dogfight in 2010 when challengers could potentially include Councillors Kim Krushell, Mike Nickel, and Karen Leibovici.
The lack of credible candidates in this race has succeeded in halting the serious Mayoral-level debate that is supposed to happen every three years – and serious debates are needed on issues such as infrastructure and urban planning, affordable housing and poverty, and the regional tensions in the Capital City Region. It also leaves Mandel not having to defend or answer for any of his initiatives as Mayor – whether they were successful or not.
2004 Mayoral Election Results
Stephen Mandel – 85,887
Bill Smith – 68,767
Robert Noce – 52,640
Tilo Paravalos – 921
Dieter Peske – 905
Dave Dowling – 858
Thomas “Buffalo Terminator” Tomilson – 768
Jean-Paul Noujaim – 390