Toronto’s next municipal election campaign is still months away from its official kickoff date, but already it’s feeling like a bit of a foregone conclusion, with the front-runners for city hall’s top job already established.
On the hypothetical 2014 mayoral ballot, we’ve got likely names like Karen Stintz, Olivia Chow and maybe John Tory, if the dude ever gets around to making a decision. There’s always the incumbent, of course, who says he’ll definitely be running. But who knows where Mayor Rob Ford’s political fortunes will stand by the time the January registration date rolls around. He’s a bit prone to scandal — you might have heard about those.
But as much as the mayoral race may seem to be narrowing around a handful of front-runners, there’s good reason not to discount lesser-known candidates. Toronto’s political history is rife with cases where presumed shoo-in candidates tripped over their own feet.
In 2010, former MPP George Smitherman was considered such an ideal and obvious choice early in the campaign that we looked set for a boring election. But he was blown out of the water by Ford, who started his campaign in obscurity. Some pundits and politicians actually encouraged Ford to run only because they thought it would be funny to see him lose. Whoops.
Before that, there was the 2003 campaign, where what was expected to be a race between Barbara Hall and Tory turned into a major victory for previously little-known city councillor David Miller.
So let’s not be so quick to discount some of the other names who may jump into the race in 2014. When former budget chief and Scarborough city councillor David Soknacki mused about running for the job last month, few paid much attention — but candidates like him — who offer clean slates, strong local roots and city hall experience — are worth keeping in mind.
In addition to Soknacki, there are other lesser-known candidates who have mused about running who are worth a look. Take Coun. Shelley Carroll. She’s got experience as budget chief and an uncanny ability to understand both downtown and suburban perspectives. And if not her, then what about rookie Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam? She’s done incredible work with the businesses in her ward — and kept her cool through a challenging council term.
Whatever the name, in a race where the current top dogs are going to be tarred as scandal-makers, opportunists, flip-floppers and arrogant outsiders, there’s a real opportunity for a lesser-known candidate to come in and start building support with a different kind of campaign.
And whoever they are, they’ve got a shot at winning.
Because in Toronto, we love nothing if not a good underdog story.