Andrew Tumilty: If you've lost to Tory before, stay home
The race to replace Tory for Toronto mayor ought to bring in some new, and better, candidates.
By: Andrew Tumilty
Democracy is a verb. That is why we practice it. While democracy is a verb, elections are contests. Democracy is meant to be practiced, elections are meant to be won.
I have some friendly advice for those considering putting their name forward to run in the impending by-election to replace outgoing City of Toronto mayor, John Tory, presumably because they hope to win.
If you have already lost an election to John Tory in 2018 or 2022, don’t run in the election to replace him. Save yourself, friends and families, the time, money and frustration. Find another candidate you align with to support instead.
I ran the war room for Mayor Tory in 2018 and 2022, I know of what I speak.
In both those elections, Mayor Tory was easily the most recognizable name on the ballot for mayor. Elected politicians — municipally, provincially and federally — saw him as unbeatable, and chose to keep their electoral powder dry.
Building out opposition research when you don’t have a chief opponent is no small task. So we worked backwards. We identified issues where the mayor might be vulnerable, and who the loudest critics on those issues were. Our teams built opposition files on those people, and all of them sat unused.
The election in 2023 will not be that sort of race. In 2023, lesser-known candidates will be up against several seasoned politicians who have the network of staff, volunteers, donors and critical campaign infrastructure needed for a serious campaign.
If you didn’t fare well against one professional political operation, you will not enjoy the results of running against several of them.
Maybe you think I am overvaluing the pros? Let’s talk about 2018 for a moment.
Former chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat, who ran against Tory five years ago, had more advantages than any non-politician running that I have ever seen in my long political career. She had solid city-building credentials, a well-articulated platform, city hall experience, media savvy, and better name recognition than anyone who has never been elected should hope for.
Perhaps most crucial for a non-politician running in politics, she had a strong staff. There was a team of professionals — largely from the NDP and my fellow Liberals — working on her campaign who are talented, dedicated and effective. They made our campaign’s job harder every day she was in the race, and at the end of the campaign, I sent a note thanking some of them for a well-fought contest.
She was a serious candidate, backed by a serious team. We still beat her by a nearly three-to-one margin on election night.
Beyond the professional operations working against you, lesser-known candidates will have the considerable problem of time. No amount of lawn signs, volunteers, or buttons will gain your campaign a single extra day, and the ones you have may not be enough.
Once Mayor Tory formally resigns to the city clerk — which as of publication he has not, though his resignation is expected to be made official shortly, after the budget is formally passed — council has 60 days to call a by-election. Then the city clerk must set a nomination date that is no less than 30 days, and no more than 60 days, from the date when council called for the by-election. The election happens 45 days after the set nomination date.
A candidate without the name recognition or infrastructure of experienced politicians, could be looking at an election day that is as early as May, and no later than early July. That is not a lot of time to increase your presence in the minds of voters or raise the money needed to fund a proper city-wide campaign.
This is all meant as friendly advice, and is entirely non-partisan. A healthy democracy needs to hear a range of opinions and ideas, and anyone who puts their name forward for office should be commended, regardless of how they finish.
The point is, there will be no shortage of challengers in this election. In 2022, including John Tory, there were 31 candidates for mayor, none of whom were the highly recognizable names or elected officials you should expect in 2023.
Mayor Tory beat the second-place candidate by nearly 250,000 votes, and by almost 45 per cent of the popular vote.
This election will feature no shortage of seasoned politicians with professional operations vying for the mayor’s office. If you have already lost an election to John Tory and want to play a role in this election, give one of those campaigns your consideration and support to replace him. It will be a more effective use of your time and resources than running again yourself.
Andrew Tumilty has crafted strategic communications and advice for federal, provincial, and municipal campaigns, including John Tory’s 2018 and 2022 mayoral campaigns. He is a senior consultant for strategic communications and issues management with Enterprise Canada in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewTumilty
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