First off, thank you Kerry Diotte, Karen Leibovici and Don Iveson. Thank you all for giving Edmontonians the best mayoralty race in years, likely better than 2004 when Stephen Mandel upset Bill Smith, and maybe even better than the three-way fight between Bill Smith, Robert Noce and Mike Nickel in 2001. Mayoralty races bring out the voters, and if nothing else this year’s voter turnout will almost certainly beat the pathetic 33% turnout of 2010. Mind you, it’s pretty well impossible not to beat that number.
Now that the major players are in place, let’s do a quick handicap of the three genuine contenders — and the other guy.
Pros: Diotte is best positioned to tap into the Angry Voter bloc, peeved that city taxes keep going up even as the potholes get bigger. He is the only mayoralty candidate who consistently voted against the arena proposal, which will stand him in good stead with the considerable number of Edmontonians (particularly the older voter) who don’t like the deal. Never underestimate the power of the disgruntled voter; gruntled voters stay home, disgruntled voters go to the polls.
Cons: Could be seen as Mr. No, the kind of guy who doesn’t want the city to spend money. Period. Again, many voters will see him as regressive, at odds with their perception of Edmonton as a progressive city. After only one term on city council, he may be seen as attempting to go too far, too fast.
Pros: A familiar face to Edmonton voters (former Liberal MLA 1993-2001, city councillor since 2001), Leibovici may be seen as a stabilizing force on a city council that will have at least six rookies on a 13-member council. Leibovici clearly knows what it takes to win, and after so many years in politics will likely have the best organization (and most money) behind her. Consistent supporter of the arena, which will please the progressive, pro-arena crowd. If Diotte is the conservative candidate, Leibovici is the liberal.
Cons: Leibovici may be too familiar of a face; a public figure for 20 years, at 61 she will have worn out her welcome with some. And with so much history to go on, her past voting record may be used against her if she can be portrayed as a tax-and-spend liberal. Consistent support of the arena deal (which I believe will become the polarizing issue of the election, along with road conditions) may backfire. As a long-time member of council and a Mandel supporter, she could become the lightning rod for voters angry with anything council has done in the last decade.
Pros: By far the youngest candidate at 34, Iveson is a fresh face despite being on council for two terms. Will hold great appeal to the 30-something voters who want Edmonton to be seen as a happening city, and provide an answer to Edmontonians suffering from Naheed Nenshi-envy. A handsome young guy with a young, multi-ethnic family, Iveson will be a favorite among progressive voters. Originally a doubter about the arena deal, Iveson changed his tune and voted in favor at the final vote. Some will see this as being pragmatic, and fighting for the best deal possible for the city.
Cons: Still young by political standards, Iveson’s “real world” experience is pretty thin. Will also be seen by some voters as being too big for his britches (that would be something older voters would say) for reaching for the top job with so little experience. His arena vote will be seen as a ‘flip-flop’ by some.
Cons: Risks being confused with infamous Edmonton Oiler loafer Dustin Penner.
So who has the advantage? Well, it’s way too soon to tell. This is one of those rare elections that will actually be decided by the campaign. I can picture scenarios where any of the three real contenders could win, but that’s a blog for a different time. Right now, I’m just glad that we will have three contenders will real visions for Edmonton. This is going to be fun, in a nerdy political way.