Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Victoria Mayor's Race

2014 will be the most interesting race for Mayor of Victoria since 1999 when Alan Lowe defeated Bod Friedland and Geoff Young.  In my opinion one of the candidates is so much better prepared for the campaign that I think the final result will not be what most people expect.

The difference between Dean Fortin, Lisa Helps and Ida Chong is dramatic.

Dean Fortin has been mayor since 2008.   The only segment of the Victoria community that I have heard of lately that are actively backing the current mayor are the "True Orange" New Democrats.

In my opinion his time as mayor has not been a very good one.  Some of this is his fault and some it is not.   He inherited a City that had been effectively leaderless in the mayor's seat for a long time and serious systemic problems have built up.   On the other hand he had not handled a number of bigger issues very well at all, the bridge being the biggest example.

I also do not think he has a personality suited to being in leadership.  No one I know of has considered Dean Fortin to be good at listening to people.  He seems to have a very thin skin because even mild criticism pushes his buttons.  

The biggest issue he has done a good job on is homelessness but I think he would be better suited if he were an advocate for the issue than being mayor

I honestly do understand why Ida Chong is running for mayor of Victoria.   She is not from the City of Victoria and has not been a dramatic public force in the city in the last 16 months.   The platform planks she outlined in her announcement today does not indicate to me she understands where the city is currently at.  

As someone that is so closely connected the current government, the single worst place to run would be the City of Victoria.  In all of BC the lowest level of support for the BC Liberals is in the City of Victoria.   Victoria Beacon Hill and Victoria Swan Lake are the only two ridings where the party did not come first or second in BC in many elections.

I think her campaign plan is to go after Dean Fortin.   This does not surprise me because she is strongly back by the business community.   She is running on their behalf but they do not understand the reality of electorate in the City of Victoria.  If they did they would realize that Lisa Helps is the much more serious threat.   The people that run the business in Victoria tend not to live in the city and are not in touch with the people that live in Victoria.

At this point I expect Ida Chong to come in a distant third though I expect her to convince a couple thousand people to come out and vote this time who in recent elections would not have voted because they figured the City of Victoria is an NDP fortress.  

Lisa Helps has only served one term on council but she has a complete vision on how she wants to fix city hall.   She also has charisma on the personal level, few people that meet her in person do not like her.   Through these two things she has put together a large campaign team.

She is also the first municipal candidate I know of in this region that has managed to put together a proper and full sized campaign team.  She is the first candidate to have the human resources to connect with every voter personally.  If she can reach the public and then gets them to vote she will very easily win the election.

Of the roughly 63,000 voters in the City of Victoria 57,000 of them will have voted in at least one of the last couple federal or provincial elections.   If this were a federal or provincial election we would expect between 34,000 and 47,000 people to vet .  Meanwhile only 17,000 to 18,000 vote in the municipal elections.   There is a huge gap between who is willing to vote and who does, why is this?

Here are the reasons I see for the lower turnout:

  • Municipal elections get less media coverage which means people know less about the candidates and the race
  • The money and volunteers a municipal mayoralty campaign tends to have in this parts is much smaller than a serious race to be MP or MLA.   The biggest gap is in the volunteers and that means many fewer people get any direct contact with any campaign.  Fewer volunteers means there are not the people to get out the vote on election day.
  • People are looking for a reason to vote for someone.  The platforms most people who run for mayor have is very weak in good reasons to vote for someone.   

In 2014 there will be a lot more media attention on the campaign and that means more people will vote this time.  Lisa Helps will have the volunteers needed to reach everyone in the city in person which will increase turnout on election day.  Most importantly, she has a detailed platform of a type never seen before which means she will be able to convince more people there is a reason to come out and vote.  There is every reason to expect

At this point my rough estimate of the likely outcome of the race is as follows

  • Lisa Helps 16,000
  • Dean Fortin 8,000
  • Ida Chong 4,500

Even if Chong and Fortin understand how strong the Helps campaign is, it will be hard to match her on the campaign trail because she will be reaching the people who have not voted consistently in the past and giving them a reason to come out and vote.  This is something the other two will not be able to do logistically or through their campaign messages.  

I expect Fortin and Chong to campaign as if Lisa Helps was running a distant third.  They will focus on each other in a negative way.  Both of them will be convinced to take of TV, radio and newspaper ads instead of talking to the public.   I think all of that works in favour of Lisa Helps and against the other two.
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