British Columbia·Analysis

How Linda Hepner turned Surrey's horse race into a runaway win

The race for the mayor’s chair in Surrey was supposed to be so evenly matched, there was no way to declare a clear favourite.

Pollsters predicted a tight race in Surrey, but Linda Hepner proved them wrong

Linda Hepner is the new mayor of Surrey. (CBC)

The race for the mayor’s chair in Surrey was supposed to be so evenly matched, there was no way to declare a clear favourite.

In the dying days of the campaign, pollsters had Linda Hepner, Barinder Rasode and Doug McCallum in a dead heat.

In the end, however, it wasn’t even close.

Hepner cruised to an easy victory and her Surrey First political slate swept all eight seats on council. Hepner says her internal polls were much more accurate than media reports.

“Every single thing they said to me was dead on,” she said.

“I think we shared all of the information we had, but maybe the media didn’t pick up on it. Maybe a dead heat is more interesting.”

Hepner had a couple of major advantages over her opponents: a well organized and well financed team at her disposal; plus the Surrey First ground crew mobilized quickly, and was able to get out the vote in impressive numbers.

Perhaps more importantly, Hepner secured the endorsement of outgoing mayor Dianne Watts, who received 80 per cent of the vote in the 2011 election.

Watts’ endorsement carried a lot of weight, but she wasn’t willing to take much credit for the victory.

"That’s hard to say," Watts said, when asked how big a role she played in Hepner’s win.

"Many of us were a team around the table doing the work this past decade, and that was a factor."

The dominant issue throughout the campaign was public safety. Surrey had a record 23 homicides in 2013, and two particularly horrific cases have left residents on edge.

Hockey mom Julie Paskall died following a brutal attack outside the Newton Arena late last year and 17-year-old Serena Vermeersch was killed near a set of railroad tracks in East Newton in September.

Hepner's opponents — Barinder Rasode and Doug McCallum — each rolled out a detailed anti-crime strategy during the campaign. Both candidates expected a much closer result.

"Nobody ever deserves to be surprised in an election," Rasode said.

"It really depends on the ballots that are cast on the day and we have seen Surrey had elected Linda Hepner and the Surrey First team and I congratulate them."

The Safe Surrey Coalition’s Doug McCallum was also surprised Hepner’s margin of victory was as big as it was. McCallum says the response he got from voters when he was out knocking on doors was generally positive.

It was clear early in the evening that Surrey First candidates knew something their opponents didn’t.

The party selected the Central City Brew Pub as its headquarters for election night, and the gathering felt like a party from the moment the polls closed until the early morning hours.

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