Toronto city Coun. Doug Ford says it's with mixed emotions that he has agreed to "take the torch" from his brother, Mayor Rob Ford, and enter the ongoing mayoral campaign after his brother withdrew earlier in the day over health concerns.
In an unprecedented move that shocked many political observers and made international headlines, Coun. Ford registered as a candidate for mayor shortly before the official deadline at 2 p.m. ET, after it was revealed the mayor would be forced to withdraw after learning just days ago he has an abdominal tumour.
In making the switch, the Fords have once again catapulted Toronto's political landscape into uncharted territory, an ongoing theme that has largely defined a latter half of Mayor Ford's time at city hall marked by admissions of crack cocaine use, alcohol abuse and profane encounters with critics.
Surrounded by cheering supporters and a sea of media at a news conference at his mother's home on Friday evening, Doug Ford said he is running because he "couldn't bear the thought of city hall returning to the old days at the expense of the good, honest, everyday people."
“Together we’ve always been an unstoppable team," he said. "Rob said, 'Just because I have to sit this one out, it doesn’t mean I won’t be by your side. Our supporters need us to continue what we’ve started'. ”
Doug Ford took several short pauses to gather his composure as he recounted conversations with his brother over the past several days, and said that the mayor asked him to apologize on his behalf to the people of Toronto for dropping out of the election race.
"He wanted to make sure I told people just how much he really cares," he said.
Decision to run made this week
Coun. Ford also insisted the switch "was never in the works" prior to his brother's most recent health problems, and was not proposed during the mayor's stint in addictions rehabilitation this summer.
Mayor Ford withdrew his name from the mayoral race after being hospitalized on Wednesday after doctors discovered a mass in his abdomen. His clinical team is awaiting the results of a biopsy, and it remains unclear how long the mayor could remain hospitalized.
He will instead run for city council in Ward 2 Etobicoke North, a ward he held for ten years before winning the mayoralty.
In a prepared statement, Mayor Ford revealed said he wanted his older brother to run in his stead.
"I have asked Doug to run to become the next mayor of Toronto, because we need him. We cannot go backwards," said the mayor in a prepared statement.
"Hope is a powerful thing. With hope, support and determination I know I will beat this, not just for my family, but for you, Toronto."
'No one here could ever replace him'
Coun. Ford said it took some time for him to come to terms with the reality of the situation, and he did not think he would end up running for mayor.
“I told him I really had to think about this," Doug Ford said of his brother. "I told him that no one here could ever replace him."
He did not elaborate on his plans for the campaign trail, saying he needed a few days to confer with his family and spend time with his brother.
“As you can imagine, right now, I am not in full campaign mode. But I assure you, I will be.”
The elder Ford, often described as the mayor's closest adviser and most tenacious supporter, is no stranger to controversy. He has clashed publicly with Toronto police Chief Bill Blair, insisting that criminal investigations into Mayor Ford's transgressions while in office were politically motivated.
Recently, Doug Ford was criticized by advocates after he said that a home for developmentally disabled youth had "ruined" a Toronto neighbourhood.
Tory, Chow take different tack
With Doug Ford entering the race, the Toronto mayoral campaign takes a different shape in the final six weeks.
Mayoral candidate Olivia Chow declined to go on the offensive Friday, saying it was too soon to comment on the policies of the new contender or how he might differ from his brother Rob, arguably the most controversial political figure in the city's history.
"I wish Rob Ford a speedy recovery because the illness must be pretty serious," she said, quickly pivoting back to her campaign's messaging.
"I will continue to put out my vision of a better city," she said. "I'm not changing my campaign plans. I welcome Doug Ford to the race."
John Tory, who has maintained a comfortable lead in the race for several weeks according to recent polls, did not mince words about Doug Ford at a news conference earlier in the day. After reiterating his well-wishes for the mayor, he quickly turned his attention to Doug.
He said Ford has been disparaging of his colleagues on council, insensitive to members of various Toronto communities and offered something even "worse" than the last four years."The choice has not changed," said Tory.
Many city hall insiders, including Mayor Ford's former chief of staff Mark Towhey, have said previously that Tory and Ford are not particularly fond of one another.