Fredericton voters returned long-time mayor Brad Woodside for a record ninth term with a comfortable victory made possible by a fortress of support on the city’s north side.
Woodside and Matthew Hayes, a sociology professor at St. Thomas University, were the only two mayoral candidates in the May 14 election.
While Woodside won 62.9 per cent of the vote in the election, Hayes ran a high-profile campaign against the long-time mayor.
A detailed analysis of the electoral results offers a glimpse into how the veteran mayor held onto his powerbase, but it also illustrates some areas of weakness.
Woodside is a resident of the city’s north side, an area he represented as a councillor starting in 1981 until he became mayor in 1986.
His strength on the north side of the St. John River becomes immediately obvious as the incumbent mayor did not lose a single poll in the area.
Woodside won a handful of polls with 80 per cent or more of the vote. For instance, in a poll that includes the Ring Road and Claude Road, Woodside won 110 votes and that earned him 80.2 per cent of the vote.
Tom Bateman, a political scientist at St. Thomas University, said the voting patterns suggest an added complexity to the electorate.
Bateman said the addition of residential areas on the north side, which is boosting the population and tax base in the area, means some of the traditional south-side characteristics are transferring across the river.
"Things are changing but I think the north side-south side dynamic still operates," Bateman said.
Southside support for Hayes
While Hayes fell far short in his goal of unseating the capital city’s longest-serving mayor, he did manage to earn a strong showing in several polls on the city’s south side.
The university professor managed to win several polls in the downtown area and close to the two universities.
The poll that delivered Hayes the largest victory was in a section of the city near Saunders, Charlotte and George streets, between Northumberland and York streets. Hayes won the poll with 65 votes or 71.4 per cent of the vote.
Once the ballots were counted, Hayes emerged with a beltway of support stretching from around the Sunshine Gardens area of the city across to the upscale Waterloo Row.
'I’d say education and professional status would be important markers for the parts of the city where Matthew Hayes polled fairly well.' —Tom Bateman, political scientist
Hayes said the vote results are likely a result of his higher profile on the south side of the city.
"I am not sure there was anything special that we did on south side neighbourhoods. People there knew me better, perhaps and that was probably an important factor," he said.
The only place that Hayes won outside of the downtown area was in a small poll in the Prospect Street area. He defeated Woodside, 19 votes to 18.
Bateman said the swath of support for Hayes in the downtown area suggests his platform resonated with voters in the area.
"These are urban-dwelling students and professionals, these would be certainly higher-educated parts of the city and a mix of family forms – lots of single people, some families, some older people. I’d say education and professional status would be important markers for the parts of the city where Matthew Hayes polled fairly well," Bateman said.
"So he was attractive to what, in the political science world, we’d call the post-material cohort. He had a green environment platform, he had urban issues, like transportation, beautification and arts support, which is a very different agenda than you would get in older, more suburban parts of Fredericton, where people may be more concerned with fixing potholes and access to sports facilities, like hockey arenas and keeping their taxes manageable."
Perhaps a surprising loss for Hayes came in the poll that covers the campuses of University of New Brunswick and St. Thomas University.
In that specific poll, Woodside won 30 votes to 26 for Hayes.
While Woodside won the majority of poll on the south side, many of them were not by the large margins that he saw on the opposite side of the river.
Woodside’s apparent weakness on the south side of the St. John River may not be a strategic benefit in 2016.
The long-time mayor has said he does not plan to seek a 10th term in office.