Coun. Brad Clark of Stoney Creek is running for mayor of Hamilton this year, a decision he made when he learned Mayor Bob Bratina isn't running again.
Clark, who represents Ward 9, said he's been considering a mayoral run for about a year, but told Bratina he wouldn't run against him. But when Bratina made a surprise announcement Friday morning, Clark assembled his waiting team.
"I had told [the mayor] if he was going to seek reelection I would not challenge him," Clark told CBC Hamilton. Bratina announced he wouldn't be running, but is pondering a move to federal politics.
Clark was a former provincial PC minister in the Mike Harris and Ernie Eves governments from from 1999 to 2003, and says he would draw on that experience as mayor. Clark served as both minister of transportation and labour.
"The reason I am running is that my experience at Queen's Park and Ottawa will make sure that Hamilton is in the foremost thoughts of the government," he said, adding that his number one priority will be bringing jobs and new business to Hamilton.
"With a global economy we really need to start reaching out to newcomer business owners," he said.
Coun. Brian McHattie, former councillor Don Ross, Crystal Lavigne and Michael Baldasaro are also running for mayor. Former mayor Fred Eisenberger has not filed his nomination papers but says also plans to run.
Clark won his Ward 9 seat back in 2006. He also ran in the 2011 federal election while still a councillor, only to be defeated by NDP incumbent Wayne Marston.
Clark's priority for Hamilton is jobs, he said. He is also against local tax dollars being used for light rail transit (LRT) — he's only in favour if the province pays for it. He acknowledges that this will likely be a campaign issue as he faces off against McHattie, who is an advocate of LRT.
"I will not every agree to spend any municipal tax dollars on LRT," Clark said. "We absolutely can’t do that. We don’t have the money. And I will not ever agree to have LRT at the expense of improvements to regional transit."
Clark, 54, has spoken publicly about his battle with rheumatoid arthritis. His health is "excellent" and he's ready for the campaign, he said.
"My rheumatologist has been encouraging me to run for mayor for the last year."
Clark was mum on who is on his team, or how much he hopes to fundraise. Stu Beattie, who has run his previous campaigns, will play a key role in his mayoral run.
He's not worried about the notion that former mayor Larry Di Ianni, who is also from Stoney Creek, might run. If that happened, "he'd be running his campaign and I'll be running mine."
"The campaign from my perspective will be about ideas and will be about the priorities we feel need to be discussed."
Clark filed his papers quietly Monday, without notifying the media. That's how he's always done it, he said. But there will be a launch soon. "We're in this to win."
McHattie knew other members of council would file to run, but he was a little surprised it was Clark, he said. It doesn't influence his campaign, which includes a survey on his website for the community to help develop his platform.
Clark is a respectable councillor, but has been a divisive one, said McHattie, who represents Ward 1. That's what sets them apart. "My relationship with my fellow councillors is a much more friendly one than Coun. Clark."
Bratina's announcement Friday has made it a "wide open race," said Coun. Chad Collins of Ward 5. He's not ruling out a run himself, and "I think a number people on council and in the community who can say the same."
"It’ll be a different election unlike any we’ve seen in the last several decades."