Crowd grows in race to be Calgary's next mayor
14 mayoral candidates have submitted nominations for this fall's municipal election
The crowd of candidates vying to be Calgary's next mayor is rounding into form.
Fourteen candidates have now put down their $500 and their nomination forms. More are anticipated to join the race.
It's actually not that unusual to see that many people lining up to run in Calgary.
The last two times there wasn't an incumbent mayor's name on the ballot also attracted increased attention from candidates.
In 2001, Dave Bronconnier took the mayor's chair as the top finisher on a ballot with 17 names.
In 2010, Naheed Nenshi vaulted to a mayoral victory over 14 others.
While two current councillors, Jeromy Farkas and Jyoti Gondek, spar over their plans to move into the mayor's office this fall, lesser-known candidates are trying to raise their profiles.
Damery jumps in
On Tuesday, Jan Damery became number 14 in this year's crop of candidates.
The former energy economist and an executive with YWCA Calgary calls herself "a champion of possibility"
She's pledging to oversee a revitalization of downtown and turn it into a thriving neighbourhood where people live, play and work.
Damery also said the Green Line is a priority that requires new leadership.
"I've watched this project flounder for the last decade," said Damery. "We need executive oversight to drive that project."
Also on Tuesday, Zane Novak held a news conference to talk about some of his priorities.
The former head of the Kerby Centre and a businessman, Novak said he wants to see bi-annual reviews at city council on major projects so taxpayers know exactly where things stand while work is underway.
He also said he'd like to see rewards offered to city employees who help find ways to save money and increase efficiency.
"I believe that this is the most pivotal municipal election that Calgary has seen in decades," said Novak.
Find the waste
Also on Tuesday, another contender announced a contest of sorts.
Brad Field is asking Calgarians to help identify wasteful spending at city hall.
Those who get their suggestions published on his website will get a bar of locally made soap that's branded "Help Brad Clean Up City Hall."
It might seem like a fun gimmick but there's also strategy at play.
A political scientist at Mount Royal University said some of the lesser-known candidates may have established resumes but they need to introduce themselves to voters.
Lori Williams said some newcomer candidates might be well known in their own circles but that's typically not the kind of public profile well-known council members enjoy.
"Incumbency has historically been an advantage partly because of that name recognition," said Williams.
"So what they've got to try to do is distinguish themselves and let Calgarians know what they stand for."
Not an impossible task
It might seem impossible but an outsider can still win.
Williams points to a guy named Naheed Nenshi, who started his election campaign in 2010 as a relatively unknown quantity.
"He had published letters to the editor, been a city council watcher. He'd done some media coverage before that but really wasn't well known to a lot of Calgarians," said Williams.
Unlike any recent past elections, this campaign will be different because it's happening during a pandemic.
Williams said valuable networking time may be lost for all candidates if there aren't many social events associated with this year's Stampede.
A door-knocking campaign can be tough for mayoral candidates in a city the size of Calgary but she said persistence can help a candidate gain word of mouth support.
Williams said whether the pandemic eases and allows the mayoral campaign to take on a more normal look — including all candidate forums — by September and October is anyone's guess.
But she suggests it's important the newcomer candidates find a way to make themselves stand out by then to merit greater consideration from voters as a potential mayor.
Calgarians will go to the polls on Oct. 18.