Eisenberger wins Hamilton mayor's race over anti-LRT challenger Sgro
Fred Eisenberger has won a third term — and second consecutive term — as Mayor of Hamilton, winning what he called a de-facto referendum on LRT.
Sgro contacted Eisenberger just before 9:30 p.m. to concede.
'For those that wanted to make this a referendum, I think they can consider this a referendum. - Mayor Fred Eisenberger
Eisenberger jumped out in front right from the start of the results and has maintained his lead through the evening in a campaign that he says amounts to a clear decision on LRT.
"This is a pretty strong mandate on LRT to move forward," he said from his campaign headquarters. "For those that wanted to make this a referendum, I think they can consider this a referendum.
"I'm hoping the members of council can take that to heart and understand that many thousands of people expressed their opinion on this issue and the majority of citizens of Hamilton believe LRT needs to move forward."
Far from over
Voters across Hamilton are choosing a mayor, 15 councillors and school board trustees after a campaign that revealed sharp divisions over the $1 billion LRT project.
In his concession speech from his campaign headquarters at the downtown Sheraton Hotel, Sgro said the community needed the debate he forced on LRT. "I'd never forgive myself if I didn't try," he said.
He said despite his loss, the number of anti-LRT councillors elected means the "referendum" result touted by Eisenberger is not as clear as he suggests.
"It is a very divisive issue, I don't think its solved yet. If anyone thinks this is over, this is far from over... if you think this is a done deal it's not."
The vote has brought several new faces to the council table: Maureen Wilson won in Ward 1; in Ward 3, Nrinder Nann was elected to replace Matthew Green; in Ward 7 Esther Pauls won in the council seat vacated by Donna Skelly; in Ward 8 John Paul Danko won in the ward that was previously Terry Whitehead's. A new-old face elected is Brad Clark in Ward 9 returning to council after defeating incumbent Doug Conley.
Conley was the only incumbent to lose.
Other than Conley however, the power of incumbency could be easily seen in this election, with sitting councillors Terry Whitehead, Sam Merulla and Chad Collins, Lloyd Ferguson Jason Farr , Tom Jackson,Brenda Johnson, Maria Pearson allw winning handily in their wards. The exception was Judi Partridge who won a tight race over Susan McKechnie.
Newly-elected Nann said: "I'm just overwhelmed right now with a big sense of gratitude.
"I'm feeling so excited to get started and so excited about building with this community across Ward 3 and getting into city council and creating the change our ward is looking for."
Among those issues she's looking forward to "collaborating with council on are social housing, affordable and dignified housing and "making sure our transit system is one that moves everybody and is well-managed and funded."
Eisenberger campaigned on a message that focused on jobs, the economy and his record as mayor. He supports the LRT project from the city's east end to McMaster University.
He lined up support from any local businesses, institutions and unions.
Sgro's focused campaign
Sgro, a businessman and and long-time Liberal party organizer in the city, ran on a tightly focused campaign opposing LRT and promising to stop what he called "Fred's train."
He pledged to use the $1 billion promised for LRT for roads and infrastructure.
His campaign rode the support of local PC member Donna Skelly and the promise she conveyed from the Ford government that that the money was available for the city to use on transit or infrastructure.
He also had five councillors declare their support for him.
He praised the effort of his campaign team.
"We shocked them tonight. No one had every heard of me, but we had one thing, a campaign team that was a family."
A poll late in the campaign had suggested the race was a dead heat, although Eisenberger said his own polling did not show the same split.
In many of the wards, there were debates of appropriate development, of the need to deal with issues of housing affordability, taxes, safe streets and safety in general.