They stopped short of an official endorsement, but three councillors stepped forward to publicly offer encouragement to mayoral hopeful Brian McHattie at his official campaign launch — even offering subtle discouragement to current mayor Bob Bratina.

Ward 2 councillor Jason Farr was the master of ceremonies. Flamborough councillor Robert Pasuta showed up in support. And Mountain councillor Terry Whitehead wrote a letter encouraging McHattie in his mayoral run, which Farr read at the packed event on Tuesday.

Brian McHattie campaign launch

Brian McHattie raises his hand during an auction to raise money at his campaign launch on Tuesday. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

About 400 people attended the event at LIUNA Station, many of them environmentalists, transit advocates and “new Hamilton" urbanists. The team has work to do to reach out to the suburbs, McHattie said.

“That’s why I started this campaign so early…to have the opportunity to go right across the city, having events across the city,” he said.

“You start from where you live and you build out from there.”

Asked why he agreed to be the Ward 1 councillor's master of ceremonies, Farr said: “Brian has never failed to be there for me for the last three years. So I was honoured to be playing the role of master of ceremonies.”

If Bratina asked for a similar favour, Farr said, “I would have to check my calendar.”

Pasuta, who represents Ward 14, said he accepted McHattie’s invitation to the event because McHattie is a “friend and colleague.”

Conversely, if Bratina asked him to attend an event, Pasuta said he would attend “because he’s the mayor."

Brian McHattie campaign launch

About 400 people gathered at the launch at LIUNA Station. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Whitehead’s letter, meanwhile, touted McHattie as a candidate who “deserves every serious consideration.”

“You make an excellent candidate for mayor,” wrote Whitehead, who often disagrees with McHattie at the council table. “Democracy is enriched when there are clear choices provided to the people of this community.”

It was a boost for McHattie in a race expected to include Bratina and former mayor Fred Eisenberger. Former councillor Don Ross has already declared, as well as Crystal Lavigne and Michael Baldasaro.

Under the slogan “Together we can do more,” McHattie pledged to listen to residents to help build his platform. He promised stronger neighbourhoods, smarter growth, transparent government, a healthier environment and more jobs.

Campaign chair Todd White is at the centre of a core team of about 15, many with campaign experience. White is the constituency assistant of Hamilton East MPP Paul Miller and ran Miller’s 2007 and 2011 campaigns. He is also running for reelection as a Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, and as a McMaster University student, he volunteered for McHattie’s 2003 campaign.

Jason Farr at Brian McHattie's launch

Coun. Jason Farr acted as master of ceremonies at McHattie's campaign launch. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

“He was the first politician I think I’ve ever cast a ballot for," White said.

McHattie hopes to raise enough money for a campaign budget of $250,000. With Farr at the mic, his team raised nearly $32,000 at the launch, also the official start of campaign fundraising.

There are strong McHattie supporters in Flamborough, Pasuta said. But he does have work to do.

“It is a rural area, and Brian’s more downtown, he keeps pushing bicycles, things like that,” Pasuta said. “It’s an issue for some of them.”