Torstar News Service Former budget chief David Soknacki is going to have to work hard to gain traction in a race where the spotlight shines heavily on Mayor Rob Ford.

Since he registered to run for mayor in January, I have been trying to find things to dislike about David Soknacki’s wonkish, policy-heavy campaign.

It’s still a short list. Really, there’s only one thing to dislike: the sinking feeling that he’s not going to be able to compete with his high-profile opponents.

We asked Soknacki about his low poll numbers when he visited the Metro Toronto newsroom. In his response, he was hopeful and pointed to something he called the “politics of celebrity.”

“I recognize that right now votes are parked,” said. “That people realize that they don’t have to make a decision for — what is it? —seven months now, and if they have a predilection for voting left or right or being content, they will go with a celebrity. I think that the polls will start changing when people take a look at the details of the campaign and move beyond the celebrity.”

In our interview, Soknacki didn’t exhibit any desire to become a celebrity himself. He spent little time talking up his life story. Instead, he spoke in nerdy detail about the city’s budget pressures and the long-term fiscal plan. And when it came time to talk transit, he didn’t shy away from hard truths.

“I’m the only one that’s not afraid to say that transit isn’t free,” Soknacki said.

“That in fact we nee — I will call them taxes — and other revenue tools for transit. It’s incredibly important. I believe that, while we must remain a competitive jurisdiction, because we don’t want people on fixed incomes or those who have a choice to flee. Yet, on the other hand, we need the revenue tools in order to enhance our quality of life.”

It was a clear, honest answer, but how far will clarity and honesty go when he’s stacked up against a slate of candidates that includes at least two household names and one scandal-plagued, internationally-known incumbent with his very own bobblehead?

It’ll be an uphill battle. For Soknacki, his best hope is that his trajectory follows that of David Miller in 2003. Back then, pundits said the virtually-unknown Miller didn’t have a chance in hell of beating his high profile opponents. The voters said otherwise.

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