The crazy train arrived a little earlier than normal this election cycle, with word earlier this year that mayor Dave Bronconnier would not be seeking re-election. From the day that announcement was made, it was only a matter of time before all heck broke loose - and break loose, it did.
3 sitting aldermen are seeking the mayor's chair: Ric McIver, Bob Hawkesworth and Joe Connelly. As well, Alderman Joe Ceci has announced he won't be seeking re-election. So, right there, you have 4 wards that will seat new alderman at the first council meeting this fall. That's assuming no incumbents taste defeat - an unlikely situation, as the acrimonious and controversial nature of this past council hasn't been seen in these parts since Danielle Smith was a CBE Trustee. People are hungry for change - and it's not overstating the matter to suggest that we COULD see as much as 50% of council's membership shown the door this October, based on the relative strength of some of the challengers in wards in which the incumbents are thought to be standing for re-election.
SO... we've got a situation where potential candidates have been smelling blood in the water, and 4 wards have no incumbent alderman running in October. School board trustees are notorious for not announcing their intentions ahead of time, and the school trustee job is a pretty good gig if you can get it - even better, if you can be acclaimed.
As of the typing of this blog post, we've got 67 candidates, in 29 races (the final tally in 2007 was 77 candidates)
The question that begs to be asked of these candidates, then, is obvious: What are your policies? What will you DO if elected?
Well, a political campaign is a marathon, not a sprint. Just like a marathon, the object is to cross the finish line first - everyone agrees on that - but popular opinion diverges when you talk strategy. Do you go hard at the start, hope to pull to an early lead and demoralize your opponents? Do you save your legs, stick with the pack and then kick it into overdrive on the last lap, when the front-runners have run themselves out of steam? Or do you run your own race, wire to wire, keeping a consistent pace through the whole race and trust that those who blew their energy at the start will run out of wind, and those who waited for the last lap will be too far behind to catch up?
We've seen examples of all of these in this election - even just in the race for mayor.
There's Ric McIver, who some could say has been laying out his platform since about 2005 - hoping that the people who decided to vote for him over a year ago won't even consider another candidate. On the other hand, you've got Barb Higgins, who yesterday declared that she's hoping to fundraise for the next 6 weeks without any articulated policies, which are to be released after Labour Day - saving her best stuff for the final lap, with the hope that when people actually start paying real attention to this race, she's going to have a full platform to give them, and opponents who haven't had time to review and attack her ideas. And then you've got candidates like Wayne Stewart and Naheed Nenshi, who are releasing policies the whole summer long, hoping to get enough momentum going that they can capture, a few dozen votes at a time, enough ballots to win the day when they all get counted.
Which strategy will ultimately prove successful? It's hard to say - if any one of the 3 was consistently more successful than the others, it would be the standard, and everyone would use it. What is NOT in dispute, though, it that each strategy has its potential risks - peak too soon, and people will be tired of you when they go to vote. Peak too LATE, and people may already have made up their minds. Run a consistent race, and you may get lost in the hullabaloo over the candidates who go hard at the start, and the ones who save their best ammo for the last few weeks.
What is ALSO not in dispute? These races are going to be FUN to watch... and I'm glad that I've got my comrades-in-arms at calgarypolitics.com to help me cover them this time around (spending 2-to-3 hours per night, for 6 weeks, researching and writing about the races in 2007 was, admittedly, a bit much).
I LOVE the smell of politics in the morning.