The Unincumbents – Meet the underdogs
By Katie Daubs, Toronto Star
Ken Wood can’t afford glitzy t-shirts. His campaign office is his basement apartment and his best asset is his colour printer.
“I’m the poor people’s candidate,” Wood told a group of would-be councillors, adding that he lives off a disability allowance.
Mayoral candidate HiMY SYeD, (who spells his name with lower-case vowels in homage to a former teacher) held a gathering for “unincumbent” candidates like Wood at the Dovercourt Baptist Church on Monday. Since nine councillors are retiring or running for mayor this year, there is more hope than usual for people with designs on city council.
Wood hopes to get a little recognition in Adam Giambrone’s old stomping ground by focusing on poverty, pedestrians and homelessness. Also running for the seat are Giambrone’s former assistant, Kevin Beaulieu, and Ana Bailao, who lost to Giambrone by 1,200 votes in 2003.
“It’s an unequal race. I know that. But this is who I am,” he said. “I don’t prepare speeches. I just speak from the heart.”
A dozen candidates, most of them underdogs, showed up to talk politics on Monday. Some had campaign managers. Others had parents handing out pamphlets. One man had to leave early for his afternoon shift at Staples.
“We’re all coming at you like vultures,” said William Molls, a 22-year-old candidate for the St. Paul’s ward, which longtime councillor Michael Walker soon will leave.
Molls said he has to be aggressive because he’s a “nobody” next to competitors like TDSB trustee Josh Matlow and Walker’s former executive assistant, Chris Sellors.
“I have a small team of family and friends helping me,” he said. “There’s no big names.”
Ella Rebanks, a stay-at-home mom with a background in politics and communication, has been rising early to shake hands at subway stations near her Ward 27 riding, soon to be vacated by Kyle Rae.
Rebanks said she wouldn’t be running if Rae was in contention.
“I’ve worked in politics long enough to know not to run against an incumbent,” she said. “I wouldn’t subject my family and friends to all of this if there wasn’t a chance.”
Mitch Kosny, the interim director of Ryerson University’s School of Urban and Regional Planning, said races without incumbents are still difficult for unknown candidates, especially when sitting councillors have protégés in the running.
Kosny knows how hard it is. He ran against incumbent Tom Clifford in 1988 and failed to gain any traction in Riverdale.
“Tom was one of these guys who had been there forever,” he said. “He went to funerals and christenings.”
Several people at Monday’s gathering are facing incumbents with Clifford-like longevity.
Daniel Murton knows it will be difficult to unseat Pam McConnell from the Toronto Centre-Rosedale ward she has held since Murton was in elementary school.
The 26-year-old doesn’t have a newsletter or an executive assistant, but he is willing to knock on doors until his knuckles are sore.
“That’s what makes me better,” he said.
Sharad Sharma, who is running against incumbent Suzan Hall for Etobicoke North, cheerfully reminded his comrades that politics doesn’t have to be the last refuge for scoundrels.
“So don’t get disappointed if you don’t get in this time around,” he said. “Next time you’ll get it.”
Bruce Baker, a former TTC driver who is hoping to win against Sandra Bussin in Beaches-East York, was impressed.
“If I quit Ward 32, will you come run for me?” he yelled out. “I love you!”