Anton is the underdog heading into the November 19th civic election
Yesterday I attended a video-taped debate with Vision Vancouver’s Ian Baillie to discuss the state of affairs regarding the upcoming civic election. It was my first opportunity to meet Baillie and our debate started off as a relatively peaceful exchange. That is until the topic of Occupy Vancouver came on to the agenda.
A few sparks started to fly as Baillie and I went at it over his prediction that any attempt to forcibly shut down the illegal encampment would be met with violence. I do find it curious that Vision Vancouver continue to talk about violence and use American cities as their reference point. I'd much rather we look at a made-in-Vancouver solution that uses our professional staff to remove the encampment peacefully. We've done it before, we can do it again.
Our video-taped debate also happened to generate the following headline in the Vancouver Sun: "Suzanne Anton faces ‘herculean’ task in getting elected, NPA strategist says." The opening paragraph states:
The chief of staff for former Non- Partisan Association mayor Sam Sullivan acknowledged Thursday that Suzanne Anton, the party’s choice for the Nov. 19 election, likely will not get elected.
For the record, I am not working as an NPA strategist as the headline suggests. Nor am I on the NPA payroll. In fact, I have yet to make a single appearance in the NPA campaign office, nor do I attend their daily strategy sessions.
I also want to make it very clear that although I believe the NPA’s mayoral candidate Suzanne Anton has a tough job ahead of her in defeating Gregor Robertson, she is beginning to make some progress.
A couple of months ago I would said Anton had literally no chance of beating Robertson. Today, I believe she could pull it off. However, in order to win it will take a lot of hard work, a united team, a galvanizing issue and a bit of good luck. Of course she will also need to get out the vote using a massive campaign machine on Election Day (something I'm now told the NPA are pulling together quite nicely).
There are still three weeks left in this campaign and that is considered an eternity. Anything can happen – including Anton continuing to gain momentum and taking down “Goliath”.
What is keeping the NPA team optimistic is that Robertson has not been at his best over the last few weeks. He’s been fumbling from one issue to another and is dithering badly when it comes to the handling of Occupy Vancouver. Layer this on top of the fact the electorate are still smarting over the lack of justice regarding Robertson’s Riot and presto, this election will likely be a lot closer then we all think.
As for Anton, she does appear to be on her game of late. She’s finding the right buttons to push and by all accounts her candidates continue to wage a very effective door-to-door ground war.
You know the NPA must have a bit of momentum on its side when Vision's attempts to smear the character of a council candidate blows up in their face. Rather than destroying Jason Lamarche’s council career, Vision unwittingly provided him with huge profile and some name recognition to boot. I trust they will think twice before launching their next personal smear attack - but somehow I doubt it.
Not even the NPA backroom folks can deny that the odds are against Anton. She's clearly the underdog in this campaign.
But the odds were also against Sam Sullivan and he ended up pulling off a miracle victory in 2005. The odds were also against the anti-wards campaigners, but they too pulled off a victory. Voters do tend to like underdogs - and Anton clearly fits that bill at the moment.
It’s also important to note that although incumbency can provide you with a great deal of votes, it doesn’t always secure your victory. Yes it’s been 40+ years since an incumbent was defeated, but the fact remains Vancouver voters have defeated incumbent mayors. Perhaps more importantly, Vancouverites also have a long history of electing centre-right NPA civic governments.
Incumbency is very important, but you need only ask former NPA councillors Elizabeth Ball and Kim Capri what it was worth to them during the last civic election when a high profile issue was at play. Nada.
Do I think Anton can win? The simple answer is yes. She currently has a bit of wind in her sails and her team is beginning to fire on all cylinders. Do I think it will be easy? Absolutely not.
Regardless of the outcome for the mayor’s chair, it’s looking more likely by the day that Anton may end up depriving Robertson of his second majority mandate. If nothing else, the NPA council candidates must be heartened by the prospect that they now stand a good chance of regaining control of the government agenda.