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Fred Eisenberger wins Hamilton's mayoral election; council adds 5 new faces

After four years out of office, Fred Eisenberger has won a rare second chance to serve as mayor of Hamilton, while just over a third of Hamiltonians came out to vote.

He becomes first post-amalgation mayor to serve more than one term

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  • All incumbents in Hamilton council races win re-election
  • Low voter turnout numbers; council becomes more diverse

After four years out of office, Fred Eisenberger has won a second chance at serving as mayor of Hamilton. 

With 100 per cent of the polls reporting, he led with 39.9 per cent of the vote. Rounding out the top three were outgoing councillors Brad Clark and Brian McHattie, who tallied 31.5 and 20.4 per cent of the vote, respectively. Voter turnout was a low 34.02 per cent, down from about 40 per cent four years ago.

He will lead a council with four new faces and a broader diversity of backgrounds, including the city's first African-Canadian councillor, its first openly gay councillor and adding a fourth woman to council.With his victory in Monday’s election, Eisenberger, who was Hamilton’s mayor from 2006 to 2010, will be the first person to serve more than one term as chief magistrate in the city’s post-amalgamation history. 

In addition to the new faces on council, the public school board is looking at seven new faces out of 11 seats.

In an interview with CBC Hamilton, Eisenberger said it feels “absolutely fantastic” to be the comeback kid, and that he was “thrilled” Hamilton would re-elect their former mayor.

“I’ve won some (elections) and I’ve lost some and I can tell you winning is a lot more fun,” said Eisenberger. 

He also congratulated fellow front-runners Clark and McHattie and thanked them for their years of service with the city.

He also said the new city council would be looking at the ideas they brought forward to see if the new council could incorporate those ideas.

“We’ve pretty much talked about the same thing but in different ways,” Eisenberger said. “There are many good ideas, and I’m not going to dismiss any of them.”

Four new councillors

Matthew Green, 33, has won in the race for Ward 3's council seat. (Supplied Photo)

With the election of four new councillors who ran to fill vacant seats, council will be more diverse in the coming term. Matthew Green, a 33-year-old African Canadian entrepreneur and social activist, will fill the Ward 3 seat that was held by Bernie Morelli from 1991 until his death in January. Aidan Johnson, a lawyer who is openly gay, is replacing McHattie as councillor for Ward 1. And city hall is adding another woman councillor: Arlene VanderBeek, who came out on top in the race to succeed Dundas's Russ Powers. 

"I'm feeling pretty amazed by the work that we put in over the 365 days, culminating in the last 20 minutes," Green told CBC Hamilton about his win on Monday night. "My plan is to continue to do the work that's been started through all the campaign."

Of her election to council, VanderBeek said: "Tonight, the overriding feeling is the number of people who ordinarily never show political stripes, who went out on a limb to support me. That was overwhelming... It just proves to me what we really love about Dundas is that it's such a close community. It brought that home tonight."

Businessman Doug Conley has been elected as councillor of Ward 9, which Clark has represented since 2006. 

Wave of wins for incumbents

All incumbents councillors in the running won re-election, most by huge margins. In the lower city, incumbents Jason Farr (Ward 2), Sam Merulla (Ward 4), Chad Collins (Ward 5) won re-election handily. Merulla picked up  80% of the vote,  Collins 70%, Farr 66%.

Mountain councillors Tom Jackson (Ward 6), Scott Duvall (Ward 7) and Terry Whitehead (Ward 8) also received strong mandates. Flamborough councillors Judi Partridge (Ward 15) and Robert Pasuta (Ward 14) were re-elected, as well as Glanbrook's Brenda Johnson (Ward 11), Stoney Creek's Maria Pearson (Ward 10) and Ancaster's Lloyd Ferguson (Ward 12). 

All of the incumbent councillors vying for re-election won their seats — including Flamborough's Judi Partridge. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

After months at hinting at his intention to run, Eisenberger officially launched his campaign in late March of this year, just weeks after incumbent mayor Bob Bratina said he didn’t plan on seeking a second term.

It was then that Eisenberger said he’d learned lessons since his last stint in office, which saw a protracted debate over where to locate the new Pan Am stadium. He lost his bid for re-election, coming third behind Bratina, the runaway winner, and another former mayor, Larry Di Ianni.

“I was somewhat impatient for change last time around," Eisenberger said in March, while filing his nomination papers. "I’m going to ensure I’m more patient this time around.”

In a surprise to some observers, Eisenberger gained the public endorsement of former mayor Larry Di Ianni, whom he unseated in 2006’s mayoral contest, in April.

LRT looms large in mayoral election

The plan to install a 13-kilometre, $860-million light-rail transit line across Hamilton’s lower city has dominated the headlines over this year’s municipal election cycle. Long ambivalent about the proposal, which the province has promised to fund in full, Bratina recently endorsed Clark, a Stoney Creek councillor who has come out as a staunch opponent of LRT. Clark has championed enhanced bus service as a cheaper, more sensible choice for Hamilton’s public transportation needs.

Heralding a vision for a “New Hamilton,” McHattie positioned himself as the most eager proponent of the LRT development. He said to go back on council’s 2013 decision to go endorse the LRT plan – councillors made their support contingent on full funding from the province – would be a missed opportunity for Hamilton.

“It seems Brad Clark wants to let the entire provincial rapid transit investment go to another city,” he said earlier in October.

Though a vocal LRT supporter, having advocated for the plan in his previous term as mayor, Eisenberger carved out ideological middle ground between Clark and McHattie, calling for a citizen’s panel to assess the proposal.

Eisenberger, who spent two of the last four years as the CEO of the Canadian Urban Institute, has said he’s “confident” the panel would end up endorsing the LRT plan. 

New-look school boards

The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board will look radically different in the next term. Seven new trustees — including Christine Bingham (Wards 1 and 2), Larry Pattison Jr. (Ward 3), Kathy Archer (Ward 6), Dawn Danko (Ward 7), Jeff Beattie (Wards 9 and 10), Greg Van Geffen (Ward 14) and Penny Deathe (Ward 15) — were elected to seats vacated by last term's incumbents. Ray Mulholland (Ward 4), Todd White (Ward 5), Wes Hicks (Ward 8) and Alex Johnstone (Wards 11 and 12) each held onto their seats.

Three new faces will serve on the Catholic school board. Aldo D'Intino defeated incumbent Sam Agostino in Ward 5. Anthony Perri (Wards 3 and 4) and Joseph Baiardo (Ward 6) won in races where incumbents weren't running. Mark Valvasori (Wards 1 and 2), John Valvasori (Ward 8) and Mary Nardini and Paul DiFrancesco (Wards 9, 10 and 11) were re-elected. Patrick Daly (Ward 7) and Carolyn Cornale (Wards 12, 13, 14, and 15) were each acclaimed. 

Click on the tabs below to check out detailed results for Hamilton's mayoral, council and trustee races. 

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