Katz wins mayoral race

Winnipeg Goldeyes owner Sam Katz will be the next mayor of Winnipeg, winning the race with 42 per cent of the popular vote – 43,000 votes more than his closest rival, Dan Vandal.

Winnipeg Goldeyes owner Sam Katz will be the next mayor of Winnipeg, winning the race with 42 per cent of the popular vote – 43,000 votes more than his closest rival, Dan Vandal.

"The people of this great city, I thank you from the bottom of my heart," Katz told the crowd at his victory party at the Convention Centre.

"It is humbling to stand here before you, having been chosen to lead our city, knowing that the people have bestowed their trust, their hopes and their dreams in me. I thank you for that trust, and I will not let you down."

Katz also gave a nod to Vandal, a former boxer and city councillor who won 24 per cent of the popular vote. "All I can say for Dan Vandal is, thank God it was an election and I didn't have to get in the ring with him, because it would have been very different."

Vandal made an appearance at the Katz party to congratulate the new mayor-elect.

"This was a heck of a race. I gave it absolutely everything I had; obviously it was not enough, and I know the city of Winnipeg will be well served by Mayor Sam Katz," Vandal said to cheers.

The third-place contender, Al Golden, conceded as the early results came in; he ended the night with about 15 per cent of the vote. Even though he was disappointed, Golden remains positive.

"I haven't lost. I think I made a tremendous contribution to democracy. There wouldn't have been an election in the last election if it wasn't for me, and I think that my continuing gave hope to other people," he says.

"We've had a tremendous slate of candidates this time compared to previous elections, and I think there has been enough good issues brought forward by a variety of candidates that some new ideas are going to spring forward from this election."

MaryAnn Mihychuk and Garth Steek trailed with 10 and seven per cent of the vote, respectively, and the rest of the contenders won less than one per cent each.

Mihychuk, who left her provincial cabinet post to run for mayor, is not ruling out the possibility of running in the next civic election, set for October 2006.

"Right now I'm not discouraged. A mortal wound has not been inflicted on me," she says. "I'm proud of our platform. I think we have real substance and the people of Winnipeg see I'm a credible candidate. I think next time I have a very good chance."

• Magnifico, Benham win council races •

Katz takes over the mayoralty from Glen Murray, who ended his term to run for the Liberals in the Charleswood-St. James riding in the June 28 federal election. Murray's resignation triggered a domino effect of byelections as politicians of all stripes considered trying for the seat.

Councillors Dan Vandal and Garth Steek resigned their positions in St. Boniface and River Heights-Fort Garry, respectively, so residents of those wards also voted Tuesday to fill those seats.

Hotelier Franco Magnifico won in St. Boniface with about 38 per cent of the vote, beating Roland Marcoux, who earned 29 per cent.

"My priority is to find out what happens at city hall because I'm a novice at this, and to work with Sammy [Katz]. I think Sammy and I are going to work well together. I'm looking forward to it," he says.

Former journalist Donald Benham won River Heights-Fort Garry with 35 per cent. Even though his last job was as an assistant to Glen Murray, Benham says he's ready to work with Sam Katz.

"I welcome Sam Katz as mayor of Winnipeg. The people of Winnipeg have spoken and I will work with him in whatever capacity he would invite me to do, and I look forward to that," says Benham.

"I think Sam Katz brings an awful lot to the table. He is an entrepreneur, and he has already proven that he can take visions and dreams and make them into reality. And, as I say, I think that's what Winnipeggers are looking for."

Benham's closest rivals were John Orlikow and Elaine Cowan.

• NDP retain Minto riding •

There was also a provincial byelection in Minto to replace former MLA MaryAnn Mihychuk, who resigned her seat to run for mayor. NDP Andrew Swan won that race with 54 per cent of the vote.

People who live in wards three and four of the Louis Riel School Division also cast ballots for school trustee Tuesday. In ward three, Mike Daoust won with 41 per cent of the vote, beating Monique Ethier at 36 per cent and Todd Scaletta at 22 per cent. In ward four, Hugh Cobourn won over Patrick LeBlanc, 60 per cent to 40 per cent.

• Turnout high •

Just before the polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday evening, some polling stations were reporting lineups of hundreds of people who wanted to vote.

In total, 223,326 Winnipeggers turned out at the polls, a voter turnout of 58.8 per cent – higher than the 48.7 per cent who turned out in the 2002 election and close to the record of 60.7 per cent set during the first election after Unicity in 1971.

The city's chief returning officer, Richard Kachur, says there was only one recurring problem at the polling stations: many people confused the civic elections with the federal election that will be held next Monday, June 28.