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Who will take on the job of running against Gregor Robertson for mayor? The hunt is on

February 4th, 2014 · 93 Comments

The favourite parlour game among the political watchers these days is discussing who is being approached to take a run at the mayor’s job. Most of the chatter is about potential NPA candidates, although TEAM and COPE also see getting a high-profile candidate as key to their success. The names circulating? Carole Taylor, of course; Trevor Linden; Jamie Graham; Rick Antonson; Jim Chu; Colin Hansen; Margaret McDiarmid, among others.

My story here takes a look at the big names the NPA is said to have approached and why that mayoral candidate is so important. For those who plan to rake me down for not including current councillor George Affleck, yes, I know his name is also out there. But the reality is that the NPA appears to be shooting for someone more instantly more recognizable. George, in spite of some hard slogging he’s doing at council lately, is not there yet. There’s a sense that he is the fall-back candidate, if the NPA can’t score any stars.

For those thinking that this means the NPA is out of the running, well, not necessarily. As one Vision insider noted, there’s an advantage for the NPA in not putting out a mayoral candidate too soon. Announcing early means extra months for Vision strategists to dig up dirt on that candidate and try to frame her or him in a negative way. As we saw in 2002, when Larry Campbell sprang onto the civic election scene only in September, the opposition couldn’t really get any traction on negative stuff because of the short timeline.

On the other hand, having that mayoral candidate known helps recruit strong council candidates and bring in money from more than just the usual steadfast party backers.

This story will evolve, that’s for sure. This is just an early bulletin and an indicator of how hard the NPA is searching.

BTW, as I was researching this story, I was given to understand that on the COPE side, a couple of board members appear to be interested in running and there was a talk of a former judge running, until the party started fracturing in recent months. TEAM claims to have two potential good candidates in the wings. And one other name circulating for the NPA is Leah Costello, an events organizer who ran for the Conservatives federally a few years ago. She told me she hasn’t been asked and it’s something that would be a tough choice, as she has a busy operation. And I’ve heard since the story came out that maybe Jonathan Baker’s son is interested.

Have fun analyzing and gossiping, people.

 

Does anyone out there want to be mayor of Vancouver? Anyone? Anyone?

That’s the question increasingly making the rounds among political insiders, as three parties are on the hunt for that vitally important, brand-defining, headline-generating leader in this year’s election campaign.

That quest is particularly important for the once-dominant centre-right Non-Partisan Association, a party that ruled the city for most of a 70-year period up to 2002, but no one appears to be putting their hand up.

In recent elections, the party suffered painful defeats under mayoral candidates Suzanne Anton in 2011, Peter Ladner in 2008 and Jennifer Clarke in 2002.

It squeaked out a victory under Sam Sullivan in 2005.

This year, city voters are irate over development plans, bike lanes, a nasty community-centre fight and a general sense that no one is listening to them. Some are looking for an alternative to the Vision Vancouver party and Mayor Gregor Robertson, and the NPA is mounting a particularly energetic hunt in a quest to regain status.

“Our top priority now is finding our candidates,” acknowledged Natasha Westover, a paid staffer for the NPA. “A lot of people see this as a change election.”

“We’re looking for somebody who’s a leader and will stand up for Vancouver, somebody’s who’s successful in their own right and somebody who’s community-minded.”

So far, there appear to be no public takers, at least among the names mentioned by party insiders and close observers of the political scene. That’s even though NPA president Peter Armstrong is said to be making extensive recruiting efforts with former Canuck star Trevor Linden, ex-B.C. finance minister Carole Taylor and others.

Among the names circulating, the responses have been mostly negative:

Former Vancouver police chief Jamie Graham, just retired four weeks ago as Victoria police chief, noted: “It’s just not in the cards.”

Said Tourism Vancouver CEO Rick Antonson, who will be leaving his job of two decades in a few months: “I care passionately about this city but don’t have any interest in that.” His plan is to become a full-time book writer.

SFU Chancellor Ms. Taylor, a perennial favourite in the mayoral-candidate rumour mill, ends her term there in June. But she said “while I have been approached by a number of people to run for mayor, my answer to everyone is the same: As chancellor of SFU, I am apolitical.”

Colin Hansen, another former B.C. finance minister, isn’t interested: “After 17 years of that workload, that is enough for one lifetime.”

And former Vancouver-Fairview MLA and health minister Margaret McDiarmid said it’s not her thing: “It’s not the area of politics I was ever interested in.”

Three people whose names are currently in rotation didn’t respond to requests for comment. They include former Vancouver Olympics organizing committee chief John Furlong, who has been dogged by controversy recently, Mr. Linden and current Vancouver police chief Jim Chu.

Mr. Chu just tweeted a friendly picture of himself with Mr. Robertson on Sunday at the Chinese New Year Parade. Bob Ransford, a former NPA campaign organizer, said he doubted Mr. Furlong would be interested. “I know John and that would be the last thing he wants to do.”

Finding a strong mayoral candidate is key for a party that has any serious ambition to get seats on council.

“The mayoral candidate is the flag bearer for his or her party, is able to crystallize the issues and shape the campaign,” said Tim Louis, chair of the left-wing Coalition of Progressive Electors. His party decided late last year to run a mayoral candidate against Mr. Robertson. That was an open declaration of war against Vision Vancouver, after two elections where COPE co-operated with Vision and only ran council candidates.

TEAM, a new party, is also hunting for a mayoral candidate – something that will make the difference in whether it is taken seriously on the civic scene.

“It’s that star status. It shows weakness in a party if they can’t muster a leader,” said Mr. Ransford, who ran Mr. Ladner’s campaign in 2008 but has been decidedly more Vision-friendly in recent years.

The leader, especially, matters to the big donors.

“They assess the viability of a political force based on their leadership. If you don’t have that, they’re not going to bet on you.”

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