Katz re-elected as Winnipeg mayor

Voters have elected Sam Katz to his third term as Winnipeg's mayor.

Voters have elected Sam Katz to his third term as Winnipeg's mayor.

The business-savvy, self-described non-politician defeated former NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis at the ballot box Wednesday to retain his job as the city's top political boss.

With 100 per cent of polls reporting, Katz had 116,308 votes to Wasylycia-Leis' 90,913.

The two other candidates, Brad Gross and Rav Gill, received 3,398 and 1,775 votes, respectively.

As Katz made his way to the podium to make his acceptance speech, the song Eye of the Tiger, from the movie Rocky III blared from the speakers.

"Thank you to all — I guess all Winnipeggers who voted today, so we could keep doing what we do to move Winnipeg forward," he told a cheering crowd.

"I want to thank Judy for jumping into the race," he added. "I can tell you that Judy and Brad and Rav definitely motivated me to give and do everything I had to do."

With crime making headlines in Winnipeg of late, Katz's win suggests voters agreed with his plans to hire 58 new police officers and deploy some of them to a unit to battle street gang activity and increase foot patrols in high-crime areas.

Early in his campaign, Katz secured an endorsement from the Winnipeg Police Association, the union that collectively bargains for rank-and-file officers on the Winnipeg Police Service.

Wasylycia-Leis vows to keep 'bugging' Katz

After taking an early lead in the vote count, Wasylycia-Leis began to fall behind and finally conceded just after 9 p.m. when the differential was more than 20,000.

"It doesn't matter that we didn't win, we are still going to change the face of City Hall," she said during her concession speech, referring to the push she gave Katz.

"We changed politics in Winnipeg. There's no going back ever again."

Wasylycia-Leis also said she phoned Katz to congratulate him "and I told him I would be bugging him for a long time to come" to make sure he addresses key issues important to Winnipeggers.

It's been 54 years since an incumbent mayor was defeated in Winnipeg. But Katz had faced a well-known challenger in Wasylycia-Leis, a longtime New Democrat member of Parliament and the provincial legislature.

The campaign attracted some attention internationally in August, when Katz accidentally kicked a child in the face while participating in a charity soccer match. While everyone recognized the gaffe was accidental, video of the kick went viral on sites such as Youtube, and one prankster made a mock attack ad which said "Sam Katz — he kicks children in the face."

Some bloggers in the United States assumed the attack ad was real.

While the campaign initially dealt with many issues, including the city's decade-long debate over building either a bus or light-rail rapid transit system, crime became a top concern in the final weeks.

Katz received the endorsement of the city's police union and took a tough-on-crime stance with promises to hire more officers.

Wasylycia-Leis also supported the idea of more hiring police officers, but also promised to address poverty and other social issues that she said are the root causes of crime.

She also pledged to raise property taxes by two per cent a year over the life of her four-year term if elected but it appears Winnipeggers didn't yet feel it was time to end a 13-year-long property tax freeze.

The tax freeze has led to Katz seeking alternative sources of revenue, which he said he plans to continue doing in his new term, partiicularly getting a slice of Manitoba's provincial sales tax pie.

"I'm looking forward and I'm pumped up for another great four years, to grow this city, to see more development, to make sure we have a safe city we can be proud of ... (and) to make sure that we get one point of the PST, which is long overdue," he said.

With files from The Canadian Press