Can Don Koziak make it a race for the mayor's chair in Edmonton?
Will be uphill battle despite name recognition, campaign experience and conservative credentials
The big surprise in the Edmonton mayoral race so far was Don Koziak's entry into the campaign at the last minute, literally 10 minutes before the deadline.
Of the 12 candidates challenging Don Iveson for mayor, he has the highest name recognition.
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Koziak is well known to political watchers in Edmonton. He has run in eight municipal and provincial elections since 1995. He ran for mayor in 2007 and for the Wildrose Party in Edmonton Glenora in the 2012 and 2015 provincial elections.
As a conservative businessman, he will challenge Iveson from the centre-right of the political spectrum. With Iveson's commitment to further LRT expansion, more infill development, bike lanes, anti-poverty initiatives and reconciliation with Edmonton's Indigenous community, it will be difficult for any challenger to take him on from the centre-left.
Would be 'a miracle'
Asked by reporters at city hall on nomination day whether he had a chance against Iveson, Koziak admitted it would be "a miracle" if anyone could beat the incumbent mayor.
But Koziak said he wanted to take the opportunity offered by the election campaign to raise some issues of concern to him. He cited things like LRT expansion, the city's increasing debt levels and photo radar.
The reason Koziak's entrance into the mayoral contest is significant is that he has name recognition, campaign experience and conservative credentials.
His father, Julian Koziak, was a Progressive Conservative MLA representing Edmonton-Strathcona from 1971 to 1986. Julian Koziak was a cabinet minister in Peter Lougheed's government, so his name is well known in conservative circles in Edmonton.
In 2007, Don Koziak received 38,000 votes (25 per cent of the total) in his campaign to block Stephen Mandel's second successful bid for mayor. In 2010, Koziak came 553 votes short of defeating Coun. Kim Krushell in Ward 2.
It will be an uphill battle for Koziak in this campaign. But he probably has the best chance to break out of the pack of 12 challengers to Iveson to make the 2017 mayoral campaign a race. You can look at his website here.
Other candidates to watch
The other candidates I'm watching in this year's mayoral election are Fahad Mughal, Taz Bouchier, Mike Butler, Carla Frost, Bob Ligertwood, Steve Shewchuk and Justin Thomas.
The reason I picked these candidates is they all have campaign websites and some profile on social media. If by this point you don't at least have those things, I'm not sure why you are running for the highest elected office in the city.
- Fahad Mughal was the first candidate to announce his intention to challenge Iveson. He is a former city employee who is focusing his campaign on accountability, transparency and fairness in city government.
- Taz Bouchier was the second candidate to announce her candidacy for mayor. Bouchier is an Indigenous elder and a long-time social worker. Iveson has been a strong advocate for reconciliation with Edmonton's Indigenous community.
- Mike Butler is running to restore the "City of Champions" slogan as the city's motto. He wants to freeze property taxes and encourage responsible building in the city.
- Carla Frost joins Bouchier as the only other woman running for mayor. She previously ran unsuccessfully as a Ward 6 council candidate in 2010 and 2013. Frost wants to build an eco-friendly Edmonton with an emphasis on preserving urban areas for the future.
- Bob Ligertwood has run for mayor five times since 1992. He is focusing his campaign on a critique of the current mayor and council, specifically targeting infill development, bike lanes and managerial competence with regard to LRT expansion.
- Steve Shewchuk is a small business owner concentrating his campaign on the property-tax burden imposed on Edmontonians by the current city council, plus concerns over the managerial competence of the city when it comes to LRT expansion and bridge construction, and opposition to bike lanes. He also has concerns about how the current council is encouraging infill development.
- Justin Thomas is focusing his campaign on public safety, photo radar, infill housing, bike lanes, parking fees, transit, putting a cap on property tax increases and increasing business development in Edmonton.
Iveson's 1st policy announcement
Iveson made his first policy announcement of the campaign on Sept. 19. He said his top priority if elected to a second term as mayor would be to prepare a new economic development plan for the city.
Iveson said his plan would focus on emerging sectors where Edmonton is developing strength. It would also create an "innovation corridor" between NAIT and the University of Alberta, increase cooperation with Edmonton's neighbours in the capital region, and try to make the civic bureaucracy more business-friendly.
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Mughal was critical of Iveson's announcement.
"Businesses are moving from Edmonton," he said. "And if we really need jobs in Edmonton and businesses, we have to give them a break on property taxes."
Mughal's response to Iveson's policy announcement was the first time we have seen any of the mayoralty candidates mixing it up in the public domain.
I expect we will see many more of these exchanges as the campaign intensifies.