Warren Wesson ready to face his past during Dartmouth Centre campaign

Warren Wesson says he's got more to offer than what pops up in a Google search of his name, which reveals his history of using crack cocaine, and the 2007 shooting that nearly took his life.

Wesson, who was shot 10 years ago, announced his candidacy for Halifax regional council seat on March 14

Warren Wesson, founder of the Coalition to Preserve Community Identity in HRM, announced he'll be running for District 5-Dartmouth Centre this fall. (Ingram Barss)

A Dartmouth man seeks to overcome his tumultuous and much-publicized past after announcing his candidacy to succeed Gloria McCluskey on Halifax regional council. 

Warren Wesson says he's got more to offer than what pops up in a Google search of his name. Top internet search hits reveal in plain view his history of using crack cocaine, dealing marijuana, and the 2007 shooting that nearly took his life.

"There is no excuse for it. I'm not happy about the way things went," Wesson told CBC News. 

But since then, he's quietly become more engaged with the community. Now Wesson says he's ready to start "making noise." He sees the seat for District 5-Dartmouth Centre and this fall's election campaign as his second chance, and says he's ready to face his demons in the public eye.

"To be quite honest, I'm ashamed about the way things went for me at one point in my life. I took a dive off the deep end. I was lucky enough to come out alive," Wesson said.

"If I am elected, I will fight with everything that I have humanly possible inside of me." 

Wesson announced the launch of his campaign on his website March 14. 

Passing judgment

In 2007, Wesson was shot in the chest and the hand and later testified at the attempted murder trial of two teenagers accused of trying to kill him. He testified that on the night he was shot, he'd smoked 10 rocks of crack cocaine.

He headed to Ontario for PTSD treatment after the trial and returned to Nova Scotia around Halloween 2008. He says his near-death experience was the turning point after a nervous breakdown tied to his brother's death in December 2006. 

He says he's ready to give back. 

"If somebody wants to look at the worst moments of my life and pass judgment on that and say, 'Well, that's who he is and that's all he's ever going to be,' I can't stop that," he said. 

Wesson is focused on stepping into McCluskey's "very big shoes" with a plan. McCluskey said earlier this month she will not reoffer in the Oct. 15 municipal election.

Wesson's platform ranges from reorganizing the parks and recreation department, to supporting affordable housing, to maintaining District 5's identity under the Halifax brand. He's worried city planners want to make changes to Dartmouth, what he calls "reinventing the wheel, fixing something that, in my view, is not broken." 

Getting ahead of the past

Wesson isn't the only person who's had to confront their past while taking a run at political office. Brendan Maguire, MLA for Halifax Atlantic, faced his family history head-on during his 2013 campaign. 

"People are going to ask questions no matter if you have a — what they perceive as a good past or a bad past," he told CBC News. 

He and his wife were asked questions about Maguire's past when they began going door to door. Maguire was abandoned as a child on a mall bench, lived in foster homes and became involved in petty crime.   

"Me coming out to the public, deciding to run, you know really was my first time having gone into details discussing it."

Dealing with a past that's documented online forever is the new normal, he says, but it's more important to "encourage people from all different aspects of life to get involved." 

'I have a lot of support'

Wesson says he may have had ups and downs, and may not always have been publicly engaged. But he's confident in his platform.

"I have a lot of support from my peer group. I have a lot of support from other candidates who've run. A lot of people know what I've been doing over the last couple of years. Bringing these issues to light."

As of Monday, Tim Rissesco — who ran as a Liberal in last year's Dartmouth South provincial byelection — and Adam Bowes — who announced his candidacy on March 18 — are also vying for McCluskey's seat.

Wesson hasn't planted any signs in yards yet, but says he'll be preparing for that day — much like he's prepared to deal with his past.