With all eyes – including the mayor's – on the 2014 municipal election, we've started to see speculation about how the next mayoral race could shake out. Poll results showing that Rob Ford is remarkably vulnerable in a two-way race have only bolstered arguments that say, two and a half years out, that it's time to start thinking about the next campaign.
In a story for the Toronto Star last week, David Rider looked at some of the names most consistently floated as would-be mayoral candidates: Adam Vaughan, Shelley Carroll and Karen Stintz.
We can rule out Stintz as a contender. She and her staff have been adamant that there are no plans for the embattled TTC Chair to mount a mayoral run. As much as people want to make her actions on the transit file out to be a kind of power-grab against Rob Ford, I don't see it. If anything, the last three frustrating months are going to drive her further from the political arena – she's not going to dive deeper into the muck.
Downtown councillor Adam Vaughan, on the other hand, hasn't shied away from the speculation. He's got some strong poll numbers on his side. Forum Research's March Toronto Issues poll showed him trouncing the mayor by 12 points in a two-way race. Incredibly, Vaughan's actually polling better than the mayor in Etobicoke/York – the vaunted capital of Ford Nation.
As a candidate, Vaughan could be a bit of a mixed bag. His strengths are his ability to give eloquent – if maybe a tad long-winded – speeches and his extensive knowledge of civic issues. He also has a canny talent for making Rob Ford explode in furious anger, which could be a useful tactic in debates. Vaughan's major downside is his status as a downtown councillor and resident: he's vulnerable to the same kind of suburbs-versus-downtown messaging Ford's team employed successfully through 2010.
Shelley Carroll of North York, on the other hand, can speak with authority as a voice for the suburbs while also maintaining popularity amongst the downtown elite. Carroll might very well be the best on-paper candidate. She's got clout with both Liberals and the NDP on the municipal level and a broad base of experience, including some time as budget chief.
Her liabilities are her relative lack of name recognition – with media experience, Vaughan's got an edge there – and her consistent support for new revenue tools like a municipal sales tax. That last thing, it should be noted, could be a really tough sell to voters.
At the March 5 council meeting, Ford's allies took the curious step of trying to make Shelley Carroll the new TTC Chair.
The Toronto Sun's Don Peat explains:
Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti put Carroll’s name forward to be on the TTC with the mayor’s blessing on Monday. Another Ford loyalist was poised to nominate Carroll for the job of chair. Before councillors voted to select the seven new TTC commissioners, Carroll turned down the nomination as a candidate for the TTC board.“I love Shelley Carroll, I honestly think she does a great job,” Mammoliti told reporters after the vote. “I honestly think she would have brought a different flavour to the new commission. I honestly think that the fighting may continue with the group that has been chosen.”
Part of this strategy was simply designed to try to spark in-fighting amongst the anti-Ford coalition on transit, but the other side of it stemmed from a realization that Carroll is very likely to be Ford's biggest challenger in the next election.
Carroll as TTC chair would tie her explicitly to the kind of issues that always plague the person in that seat – late buses, construction delays, sleeping fare collectors – and make her the face of surface rail in North York & Scarborough. It would give her opponents more mud to sling. In the future Ford vs. Carroll race, this stands as the first strategic campaign move.
The Ford team has reason to worry about Carroll as challenger. Where messaging against Vaughan is obvious, Carroll is more of a wildcard.
Ford's most workable path to reelection comes in a crowded field of candidates. With bedrock support of about 37%, Ford gains greatly from split votes. Per Forum Research, he'd win a race if matched up with both Vaughan and Stintz as principal opponents.
With the election campaign still so far off, there's a lot of room for shifting strategies and candidates, but one thing won't change: the left and centre-left in this city needs to find a single candidate they can support as their challenger to Ford. This can't be a free-for-all with five candidates sitting around a debate table again.
For their part, I think Vaughan and Carroll recognize this. In fact, I wonder if Vaughan's continued speculation is part of a divide-and-conquer strategy designed to keep the Ford team guessing.
At a recent Academy of the Impossible event, in response to a question by David Topping, Vaughan spoke openly about the prospect of a mayoral race with both himself and Carroll as candidates:
I would be wrong to say I'm not thinking about it, but I'm thinking about because I've been asked to think about it. I would be wrong to say that I'm going to run, because I haven't come to a conclusion in my own mind. And I would also not be lying to you to tell you we have really important work to be done at City Hall and it's really hard to be a candidate and do that work. Nonetheless, the only successful candidates are the ones who stick at City Hall and do that work before they become the mayor.So it's a process. You had Shelley Carroll here a couple of weeks ago and I think she said she was considering it. Shelley and I are actually considering it together – figuring out how it works. We had lunch just the other week to make sure that it was not about turning people against one another or running each other down. In fact, one of the things I really don't like about City Hall is the way in which Liberals and New Democrats seem better at fighting each other sometimes than they are at fighting the Tories.
Carroll, when asked the same question by Topping a few weeks earlier, was a bit more straightforward with her answer.
“Absolutely I’m considering it,” she said. “And I would be a fool to try to be coy about it.”
This post was originally published at http://www.metronews.ca/views/toronto/ford-for-toronto-matt-elliott/2012/04/04/run-against-ford-2014.html on 2012-04-04T00:00:00.000Z