I hear a lot of rumours of who might be running for council in this region. Some of the rumours out there I know are true, most of the others I know are not and then there are some that I do not know where they fall. One rumour I had assumed was not true and likely mainly wishful thinking was one about Lana Popham running for mayor of Saanich.
Since shortly after the provincial election I have been hearing people talking about Lana Popham running for mayor of Saanich. Most of the people I think were talking about their dream and not reality. Some of them said they had heard there was a draft Lana movement and two went as far as to say they had heard Lana was seriously considering it. I thought these rumours were interesting but nothing more than political fantasies. I had a chance to confirm this on Sunday at the Saanich Fall Fair when I ran into Lana.
I told Lana about the rumours I had heard and gave several chances to offer any sort of denial but she did not take the chance to said it was not true. At the end she said "rumours are good." and left with a smile on her face. She said this in front of several witness in a public place so I have no problem writing about the encounter with her here.
My take of the conversation is that she is willing to serious consider running for mayor of Saanich in 2014.
If she really does decide to run for mayor of Saanich, this will make for a very, very interesting race because of the two candidates, Lana Popham and Frank Leonard.
Lana Popham she has done well as the MLA for Saanich South since 2009. The way she has handled her constituency work she has built some unlikely allies. This is important because it means she can draw from a volunteer base that is wider than the NDP. I think one of the reasons David Cubberly did not do as well has many had expected in 2011 in his race against Frank Leonard is because the active NDP supporters in this region are spread too thin and many were active on Dean Fortin's campaign in Victoria.
In 2013 Lana Popham became the first person to win Saanich South by decent margin since the riding was created in 1991. She and John Horgan are the only two New Democrats in Greater Victoria that increased their total vote. When she won the seat the first time 2009 she did better than the party did province wide. For the 2009 election the riding had changed somewhat from 2005 when David Cubberly won for the NDP and become a more Liberal friendly riding than before.
The provincial riding of Saanich South covers the areas of Saanich that are more friendly to Frank Leonard than the areas in Victoria Swan Lake or Oak Bay Gordon Head. Lana Popham is best known by the people in the areas that Frank Leonard needs to win to have any chance of being re-elected.
Frank Leonard ran for the BC Liberals in 1996 in Saanich South and came close to defeating Andrew Petter of the NDP but was still 528 votes short of winning. After losing the race to be an MLA Frank ran to be mayor of Saanich to replace Murray Coell who had been successful for the BC Liberals in Saanich North and the Islands.
Frank Leonard has only seen one serious challenge in recent years and that was from David Cubberly in 2011. I was less than impressed with David Cubberly's campaign. The organization for David Cubberly started later than it should have and one example of this is how late a lot of the money came in for his campaign that he personally gave $12,000 to the campaign, a bit more than 1/4 of what he spent on the campaign. In contrast Frank Leonard spent almost $16,000 more than David Cubberly but almost none of it come from his own pocket. All that said, even with the much weaker than expected campaign from Cubberly, the results were not all that far apart with Frank Leonard winning by less than eight percentage points.
Frank Leonard has had an easy time since he was first elected. In 2005 and 2002 he won by acclamation and 2008 the challenger was not a serious strong candidate as well as in 1999. I was not around for his first election as mayor in 1996 so I have no idea if it was a difficult race.
I believe that with a strong campaign Lana Popham could defeat Frank Leonard for mayor of Saanich. It will be a very interesting race in any case