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Incumbency: a benefit or an albatross?

October 30, 2018   ·   0 Comments

IN MOST CASES, incumbent politicians fare well when they seek re-election. That certainly was the case in Toronto, where Mayor John Tory got more votes than all the other 32 candidates combined. Closer to home, it was also the case in Caledon and Mono but certainly not in Orangeville.

We’re sure there were many Orangeville residents who saw Jeremy Williams as likely to get a second term as mayor, if only because his two challengers had no previous political experience. Instead, he wound up with just 1,477 votes compared with 3,413 to Mayor-elect Sandy Brown and 2,914 to runner-up Darrin Davidson.

The same was true in the race for deputy mayor, with former fire chief Andy Macintosh getting more than twice the votes garnered by Nick Garisto, an incumbent councillor and former deputy mayor, 5,685 to 2014.

And incumbency was no magic wand for Don Kidd, the only incumbent councillor who sought re-election, who placed seventh among the 12 candidates seeking the five seats. He wound up with 2,408 votes, less than half the 4,912 for front-runner Todd Taylor.

Meanwhile, in Mono, all incumbents who ran for re-election won, with Mayor Laura Ryan easily securing a third four-year term, beating challenger Stephen Unwin handily, 1,770 votes to 522 in an electronic count that became the town’s official tally.

Similarly, the town’s three incumbent councillors were all re-elected, with Ralph Manktelow leading the polls with 1,456 votes and Fred Nix and Sharon Martin in a virtual tie, with 1,257 votes for Mr. Nix and 1,256 for Ms. Martin. Challengers Bob McCrea and Diane Walmsley also did well, both getting more than 1,000 votes, probably enough to win seats in 2022 if one or more of the incumbents decides to retire.

The only Mono race that didn’t involve an incumbent was the one for deputy mayor, Ken McGhee having opted to retire. Former mayor and Dufferin Warden John Creelman, who recently retired after serving more than a decade as a justice of the peace, easily beat former Mono councillor Elaine Capes, getting 1,639 votes to her 652.

How does one really explain such different outcomes in Orangeville and most of Dufferin’s other lower-tier municipalities?

Clearly, one factor is publicity, Orange-ville’s council having featured far too many rancorous sessions, particularly in contrast to those of previous councils. It leaves us wondering whether any of the four members of the outgoing council – Deputy Mayor Warren Maycock and councillors Scott Wilson, Sylvia Bradley and Gail Campbell – would have fared better than Messrs. Williams, Garisto and Kidd. (Ms. Campbell did become a winner, easily capturing the town’s seat on the Upper Grand District School Board.)

Perhaps the most important reason for incumbents’ victories lay in taxpayers’ relative satisfaction. At the three all-candidates’ meetings in Mono, Councillor Nix proudly held up a chart showing that the town’s current tax rate is the lowest in Dufferin.

There must be similar satisfaction in East Garafraxa, where the entire council was re-elected by acclamation, and to a lesser extent in Shelburne, Amaranth, Grand Valley, Melancthon and Mulmur, where at least one member of the old council was returned by acclamation and the only upsets were in Amaranth and Mulmur, where Mayors Don McIver and Paul Mills lost out to challengers Bob Currie and Janet Horner.

One issue that will no doubt never be resolved is the role played by election signs. One thing we do know is that they didn’t help Nick Garisto, who opted to put his up at least a month before other candidates, or Mayor Williams, whose team put up a huge number in the days leading up to the election.

As we see it, polluting neighbourhoods with signs that have only a name and the office sought is no substitute for publishing a platform and going door-to-door.

         

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