First, a thank you to Stephen Mandel for his years of service to our city. Politics — particularly civic politics — is a tough way to make a living, and in my view Mandel has acquitted himself very well in his nine years as mayor. If you can be in charge of a city for almost a decade and NOT have half the population hate your guts, then you’ve done something right. I have no doubt that if he had chosen to run again, he would have won easily.
OK, now with that sentimentally out of the way, let’s get down to business — who will be Edmonton’s next mayor?
At this moment, we have exactly one candidate, Kerry Diotte, who launched his campaign last week in a bold move to stake out his position before anyone else. But, judging from the comments from the mayor — who called Diotte irrelevant — and the subtle agreement from some city councillors that Diotte hasn’t carried his weight, Diotte may not be a particularly popular member of the team. If the retirement of Mandel wasn’t enough to get the tire kickers behind the wheel, the Diotte announcement will likely galvanize the maybe mayors into action.
Oddly, the Diotte decision may actually reduce the number of would-be councillors in the race. Here’s my thinking: if there are enough city councillors who throw up a little at the thought of Diotte being the mayor, the possible contenders might decide to rally around one of their own to prevent a multi-candidate dogfight that could allow Diotte to get enough of the disgruntled anti-progress, anti-tax vote to win out over a field of more progressive candidates. If that’s the case, I could see someone like Don Iveson, who is young with many years ahead of him on council if he chooses, to sit this one out and let someone else run, like almost-certain candidate Karen Leibovici.
Of course, I could be entirely off base here. There may be too much ambition on council for any two or three to get together behind a candidate. In either event, I would think that Leibovici is an almost lock to run, and I think she would immediately become the favorite. Iveson would be a real challenger; he’s young, social media savvy, and after just one term on council, still a fairly fresh face. He will no doubt take some encouragement from the remarkable success of Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, whose success three years ago was due in no small part to how well he utilized social media.
My guess is that Leibovici is 80 per cent sure to run, particularly now that Diotte is in the race. Iveson I would put at no more than 50/50; he’s still young enough to hang around for another term on council if he chooses.
Aside from the mayoralty, which will be a battle worth watching for the first time in years, there will a land rush of candidates into the non-incumbent wards. There could easily be a dozen or so candidates in Ward 11, where Diotte is leaving, Ward 5 if the unbeatable Leibovici takes a run at the mayoralty, and in Ward 10 where Iveson would be a shoe-in.
Maybe that’s the best thing about Mandel’s retirement. By stepping down, he has almost certainly given a boost to the public’s tragically low interest in civic politics. At least it will give us something to do in October.