They say “all boats rise in a flood” and, perhaps, that’s what current Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi had in mind when he tried to leverage his post-flood popularity, including his dominance of the Twittersphere, to shape the next city council.
Nenshi’s blanket endorsement of aldermen seeking re-election may have been controversial. But, in reality only a handful of the 14 ward races are likely to be hotly contested.
Incumbent Druh Farrell is trying to fend off her longtime opponent Kevin Taylor, aided by a surprisingly lively campaign from newcomer Brent Alexander.
Taylor’s online presence is stronger now than the last time he took on Farrell when he lost by five per cent. However, mentions of Farrell dominated online electoral discussions in the first two weeks of the campaign. Throughout her career, she has been a lightning rod for positive and negative reaction.
If Taylor’s suburban base in the north of Ward 7 holds strong and Alexander takes away some of Farrell’s inner city base closer to the river, Farrell could be in trouble.
Gael MacLeod faces Sean Chu for the second straight election in Ward 4, which is intersected by Centre Street North.
The margin of Macleod’s victory in 2010 was very thin (four per cent) and this time around the important Asian bloc of votes in the ward is not split among several candidates. Whether or not it unites around Chu probably determines the outcome in Ward 4.
Incumbent Brian Pincott has reportedly alienated and aggravated numerous blocs of voters in Ward 11 in the past three years, and challenger James Maxim (who came within five per cent of Pincott in 2010) has been tirelessly knocking on doors for many months.
This ward, which on the provincial level has elected people like Ralph Klein, is a perfect example of the potential of the provincial Conservatives’ political machine to make an impact on the local scene. Given how closely Pincott has aligned himself with Nenshi and his densification goals, it will throw up a red flag for a second-term mayor if Maxim pulls off an upset.
Joe Connelly, previous Ward 6 alderman and distant 2010 mayoralty race finisher, has re-emerged to challenge Richard Pootmans.
In some ways, this contest could illustrate the danger of Nenshi’s strange call to vote for council incumbents. Given that Ward 6 was, for many years, the base of former mayor Dave Bronconnier, what initially looked to be a slam dunk re-election for Pootmans has become much more interesting.
John Mar is widely thought to be on his way to re-election against challenger Evan Wooley, but that hasn’t stopped the Twitter exchanges between the two camps from being loud and nasty.
Wards 1 and 2
There are two open seats with no incumbents. Longtime aldermen Dale Hodges and Gord Lowe both retired from their northwest wards.
Despite comments rejecting partisan slates appearing on city council, these two wards may provide a glimpse of the relative power of the Wildrose and PC political machines in the city’s northwest suburbs.
In Ward 1, provincial Wildrose organizer John Hilton O’Brien is fighting against Chris Harper, whose team has established a huge online presence.
In Ward 2, it’s a toss-up after probable front-runner Joe Magliocca had to publicly retract a quote of support attributed to Premier Alison Redford.