Rob Ford returns: 5 post-scandal political comeback attempts

As Toronto Mayor Rob Ford returns from a two-month stint in rehab, we look at five politicians who tried to take the hard road back into public life after scandals.

Politicians who tried to come back from scandal

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford speaks at his campaign launch party in Toronto on April 17. Municipal elections are being held in Ontario on Oct. 27. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

The storyline in a typical political comeback often starts with wrongdoing, then moves to an admission of guilt, then an apology and then the rocky road to redemption.

Rob Ford’s story isn’t as straightforward. With his return from a two-month stint in a rehab facility, Toronto's mayor who has admitted to smoking crack cocaine and having an alcohol problem is hoping his redemption ends with voters choosing him to lead the city for another four years in the Oct. 27 municipal election.

Can it be done?

Here are the stories five politicians who've attempted a comeback after scandal.

Gordon Campbell

Gordon Campbell was pulled over after he was seen speeding and swerving on a road in Maui in 2003. (Maui Police Department)

On a vacation in Maui, Hawaii, in January 2003, the then-premier of British Columbia was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, with police alleging his blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit. As is custom in the United States, Campbell’s mugshot was released to the public, and was used by opponents to embarrass him. He pleaded no contest and was given a $913 US fine. Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada called for his resignation, but he stayed on as B.C.'s 34th premier and in the next provincial election, two years after the drinking and driving incident, his majority government was re-elected.

René Lévesque

Just after 3 a.m. on a February morning in 1977, the Quebec premier was returning from an apparently late dinner when he struck and killed Edgar Trottier with his car. Police determined Trottier had been drinking, but did not administer a breathalyzer to Lévesque. To add to the controversy, the premier was with a woman other than his wife at the time. (He would later divorce his wife and marry his companion from that night.) Freshly elected in a sweep in the 1976 election, the scandal did not have lasting effects for Lévesque in Quebec. He later brought the province to the brink of secession in a 1980 referendum, and a statue of the late premier now stands outside the legislature in Quebec City.

Buddy Cianci

Vincent (Buddy) Cianci, of Providence, R.I., is one of the longest-serving mayors in the U.S., holding office for about 21 years. He was first elected mayor of Providence in 1974, and was re-elected three times until he resigned in 1984. He stepped down after pleading no contest to assaulting a man with a lit cigarette, an ashtray and a fireplace log. He claimed the man was having an affair with his wife. He ran again in 1990 using the campaign slogan “He never stopped caring about Providence,” and won. Cianci held the job until 2002, when he and some members of his staff were caught in a police sting taking bribes. Cianci was sentenced to five years in prison, served his time, and returned to Providence. On June 25, and now in his 70s, Cianci announced he will run for mayor of Rhode Island's capital again this year.

Svend Robinson

In an example of a failed comeback, Svend Robinson’s political career came to an end in 2003 when he was arrested for stealing a ring from a public auctioneer. No charges were filed against the long-serving British Columbia NDP MP, but Robinson resigned before he would face voters again in 2004. He attempted a comeback, switching ridings from the suburban Burnaby to downtown Vancouver Centre, but did not get re-elected. Many speculated that if Robinson had not resigned before the 2004 contest, he would have been re-elected. Instead, his constituency assistant Bill Siksay stepped in and remained an MP in Burnaby until 2011.

Marion Barry

Marion Barry, videotaped smoking crack in 1990, has been elected mayor of Washington, D.C., four times. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press)
There are obvious parallels between the notorious Washington, D.C., mayor and Rob Ford, starting with the drug that landed both mayors in hot water. Barry was caught with crack in a joint FBI and police sting in 1990. He famously stayed on as mayor throughout the trial, which ended when the judge declared a mistrial, but did not seek re-election. After serving time in prison, he was elected to council in 1992 and then elected mayor in 1994. On the Ford parallels, Barry is quoted as saying, "Unless he was entrapped by the government, it’s not similar.” He would later tell the media that he has nothing to do with Ford, but that the Toronto mayor “can’t match [his] record.”