I interviewed 102 candidates in the 34 races across Hamilton in this 2018 municipal election, and I walked away from these interviews hopeful for Hamilton’s future, hopeful about the next generation of leaders who will run again in the 2022 municipal election.
Today, we vote in our 2018 election. Here are some of my thoughts on the races, and a select few of the candidates, starting with the Mayoral race, then numerically the ward races.
Predicting voter turnout is impossible. City of Hamilton Acting City Clerk Janet Pilon has done little to improve voter turnout, and in fact, Hamilton had no election information outreach booths, no social media ads, and one of the lowest number of both advance polls and polling locations per-capita of any municipality in Ontario.
Hamilton already had below average voter turnout prior to this election.
However, a polarizing election issue in the LRT, and a widely publicized Forum Poll which claims the Mayoral race is a statistical tie may motivate voters to the polls to prevent the “other side” from winning. If voter turnout increases, it is because of polarization.
Either way, we’re going to need to address the weakness of our democracy, heal it, and strength before the next municipal election.
Before I starting a discussion of Hamilton’s mayoral race, I strongly recommend reading Andrew Coyne’s column on the London Ontario mayoral race which is being conducted with a ranked balloting system. They have many good qualified candidates, and the debate is both informed and civil. Why? Because wedge issues do not work in a ranked system, and each candidate needs to convince the voters of the other to make them their second or third choice.
In the mayoral race, it’s a two candidate, one defining issue race. Personally, I’m disappointed that we haven’t had a discussion about Hamilton’s future. Not for lacking of trying on my part, I asked candidates how they plan to managing zoning and development to ensure the Hamilton of 2041 is truly “The Best Place to Raise a Child and Age Successfully”.
If you are reading this post, you’ve likely decided who you are voting for. No matter which side of the LRT debate, no matter if you are choosing Eisenberger or Sgro, I’m hearing very consistently that people are disappointed in the mayoral campaign. I want to change this in 2022, over the next few months, I’m going to be asking for your thoughts on what media coverage and conversation is missing, and I want to hear your feedback.
We’re going to find a way of making The Public Record sustainable, and to grow in the coming three years, so that in 2022, no only will The Public Record continue to be the only media outlet covering every race in Hamilton, we’re going to go into the issues in a depth unmatched anywhere else anywhere.
With no incumbent, what will happen on Monday night is anyone’s guess.
Here’s what I’m watching for in the results, how much will the McMaster student vote increase? The City has done everything short of disenfranchisement to keep students from voting, Hamilton being the only City with a university in Canada – yes Canada – to not place a special advance poll on the university campus; the City didn’t even bother to do a voter information session on the campus.
Based upon campaign organization, fundraising ability, and community profile, most political types in the City have their expected top four candidates. With 13 candidates, I’m not so sure that we can accurately predict anything in this race.
Out of my interviews with 12 of the candidates, I’m very hopeful for the future of this ward. There are some excellent young candidates who are running their first campaigns, well aware they are not in a position to win, and understand the importance of learning to a future successful campaign. They’ve brought some great ideas into the race, and I’m hopeful they will get involved in City Hall committees during the next four years.
For Trustee, Christine Ann Bingham has more than earned re-election, and should win today.
This the race I’ll be watching, as a grassroots organized campaign of Cameron Kroetsch could see incumbent Jason Farr defeated.
Kroetsch’s campaign has successfully raised tens of thousands of dollars in small donations, with the majority coming from Ward 2 residents. With endorsements from community leaders across the six neighbourhoods of Ward 2, and those leaders out canvassing door-to-door for Kroetsch, tonight’s results will be interesting.
Interviewing Ward 2 candidates was a very interesting experience for me, this is the community in which I spend the most time, and until recently, I was a member of the Executive of the Beasley Neighbourhood Association. I enjoyed speaking with Suresh Daljeet, Nicole Smith, Mark Tennant, and Diane Chiarelli, all of who are very involved already in making Ward 2 a better community.
They are all very worthy candidates, and I know many in Ward 2 who’ve expressed a desire for a ranked ballot because of how strong the field of challengers is.
Incumbent Jason Farr was both humble and self-reflective during his interview, it leads me to believe that he realizes he has to do better if he’s re-elected this evening.
For Trustee, which is shared with Ward 1, Christine Ann Bingham deserves to be re-elected.
The running joke in July was that instead of asking who’s running, it was easy to ask who is not running during the last minute rush of nominations in Ward 3. Much the same as Ward 1, no predictions as it is harder to tell who will come out on top of what should be a close three to four way election night. This is a ward where most of the candidates are already involved, and we can expect they will remain involved no matter the results.
There’s also no incumbent in the Public School Board race, with each of the candidates seeking to fill the shoes of current Ward 3 Public School Trustee Larry Pattison passing the bar of complacency and character. What will be interesting to see what factor endorsements have in the results for Trustee.
The second sleepiest campaign is easily Ward 4, Rod Douglas wasn’t able to fundraise and mount a serious challenge to incumbent Sam Merulla. What will be interesting to watch for is if there is a correlation between the total votes for Douglas and mayoral candidate Vito Sgro indicating voters are motivated primarily by the LRT issue.
Stewart Klazinga ran a good first campaign, taking clear and strong positions on the issues. Incumbent Chad Collins ran a safe campaign, not saying much. He did have to run a full campaign this time, with Juanita Maldonado – a past NDP candidate – showing the potential of running a strong campaign. In the end, there’s nothing indicating Ward 5 will change its representation.
To watch here will be the Stoney Creek polls which used to be part of Ward 9, more to see if the incumbent effect carries over Centennial Parkway.
The Trustee races here are interesting, with two challenges to Public School Trustee incumbent, and HWDSB Chair, Todd White. Carole Paikin Miller is winning the sign campaign in Ward 5.
In the Catholic race, Ralph Agostino is trying his aspiring political hand for Trustee this election – Agostino ran for Ward 3 City Councillor in 2014 – against incumbent Aldo D’Intino.
Incumbent Councillor Tom Jackson has two challengers, but neither have mounted significant campaigns. Jackson will be re-elected with a large margin.
It is the Trustee races that are to watch here.
For Public School Trustee, labour activist Jay Edington is running a strong and serious campaign to replace incumbent Kathy Archer.
The Catholic School Trustee race sees two candidates seeking to replace Joseph Baiardo on the HWCDSB. Baiardo is one of only two incumbent Catholic Trustees who are able to vote on the budget, the remainder having family members who work for the Board. Baiardo’s The 155 Podcast interview is an excellent example of a candidate who understands the issues Trustees must manage, and the reasoning required to make difficult decisions. Running against Baiardo are Ellen Agostino and Elenita (Elen) Ranas.
We will all be watching the Ward 7 race this evening, mostly because who knows how to call this race?
The race has gotten dirty in the past few days, with one candidate unleashing attack ads against his opponents, and accusations involving various candidates accusing each other of being underhanded in the sign wars. This one will be decided based upon who has the best organized campaign, and is able to get their identified voters to the polls today.
Both Trustee races are acclaimed.
Another race which has been messy, with Eve Adams having recently moved to Ancaster running on Hamilton Mountain to try and restart her disgraced political career. Adams has run a dirty campaign to say the least, with numerous tweet wars against people (Adams spent an evening attacking me on Twitter, including accusing me of not being passionate about Hamilton nor covering municipal politics), flyers designed to look like an NDP endorsement, and signs which people claimed they did not want.
Current Ward 8 City Councillor, who is running in the new Ward 14 which is form out of a large portion of the old Ward 8, Terry Whitehead had been actively inserting himself into this race in support of part-time CHCH Weather Personality Steve Ruddick.
Whitehead has attacked his former Executive Assistant Collen Wicken relentlessly during the campaign, accusing her of stealing a email list from the Ward 8 City Councillor office. Wicken denies the accusation.
Wicken has focused her campaign on door-to-door canvassing, and is expected to have a good showing tonight.
Ruddick’s not doing as well on signs as one would expect for a well-known personality, especially considering that Whitehead’s team is effectively running his campaign.
John Paul Danko, who lives in Ward 8 after redistricting, has run a strong campaign, as a non-partisan candidate not affiliated with any political party. Danko is the focus of Whitehead’s fire in the final weeks, indicating the likelihood that internal campaign polling is showing Danko as a likely winner.
Adams, for her part, does very well door-to-door connecting with voters.
Ward 8 will be watched tonight, no prediction on my part.
For Public School Trustee, there are five candidates. Long time trustee Wes Hicks initially registered for re-election, then decided to withdraw and retire. Damin Starr is running the most visible of the campaigns. The four remaining candidates are Rochelle Butler, Erica Villabroza, Becky Buck, and Yousaf Malik. The seat is shared with the new Ward 14.
For Catholic School Trustee, John Valvasori is running for re-election with George Kalacherry challenging. Both were interviewed for the 155 Podcast. The seat is also shared with Ward 14.
Incumbent Terry Whitehead has benefited from creating news that legacy media loves during this election, and constantly getting his name in the media by repeatedly changing his positions on major issues.
Challenger Bryan Wilson has run a good campaign, focused on issues, and will have a respectable showing. He took good positions to advance the future of Hamilton, is already contributing to the community, and deserved to be heard by voters, but alas, the legacy media likes its controversies, a good smart campaign is not something legacy news covers much.
Terry Whitehead has joined the Vito Sgro mayoral campaign, and in the past week, Sgro has robocalled in Ward 14 with a pitch that includes calling on voters to vote for Whitehead to kill the LRT.
The other Council candidates are Vincent Samuel, Robert Iszkula, and Roslyn French-Sanges.
For Trustee candidates, see Ward 8 above, both the Public and Catholic seats are shared with Ward 8.
A heated and disrespectful match would be the only way of describing this as incumbent Doug Conley and former Councillor Brad Clark sling mud at each other – taking away all attention from the other challengers in the race.
I’ll note that both David Ford and Peter Lanza provided good answers in The 155 Podcast interviews, and I found them both to be excellent candidates in our discussions after the podcast. This said, they’ve been basically ignored by other media, and that harms their chances as Conley v Clark became the media narrative.
The Public School Trustee race sees Cam Galindo putting his political dreams on the line after withdrawing from the Councillor race upon Brad Clark’s registration. Clark and Galindo mutually endorsed each other.
Wayne Marston, who lives in the Ward 9 & 10 Trustee ward, is hoping to return to serving on the public school board.
The Catholic School Trustee race, in a seat shared with Ward 11, is one of the most competitive in Hamilton with four candidates: Antonio (Tony) Di Mambro, Karmen Crea, Louis Agro, and Tyler Iorio.
Opposition to LRT is strong in Ward 9. During his three month Council campaign, Galindo made no direct mention of his support for the project. Clark had a nuanced position of conditional support for LRT, which his opponents used to claim he was the “Pro-LRT candidate” in Ward 9. Clark then adopted a more anti-LRT position than Vito Sgro in response to the strong anti-LRT undercurrent on Stoney Creek Mountain.
This is one of the most interesting races in all of Hamilton, with new Ward boundaries, the incumbency advantage for current Councillor Maria Pearson is significantly diminished.
Current Public School Trustee Jeff Beattie, of the well-known Stoney Creek Beattie political family, was the first challenger to register and has been running a very strong campaign. After a respectable term as Trustee, Beattie has the ward wide profile to be competitive.
Ian Thompson has run a very strong campaign, with extensive canvassing, signs, and communications. Thompson is experienced in politics, having worked for the late Dominic Agostino, and having served on the Public School School as Dundas Trustee in the mid-00s. Thompson’s ground game could win it.
Louie Milojevic is running for Ward 10 Councillor for the second time, having finished third in 2003. Milojevic has run a very good campaign of ideas, and I’ve been hearing a lot of support for him from people I’ve chatted with in Stoney Creek. Milojevic’s canvass and ground game has been excellent.
Maria Pearson has had one of her best campaigns, and the advantage of incumbency.
The outcome? Anyone’s guess.
On the Trustee race, see my comments above in Ward 9, which shares the a joint Ward 9 and 10 Public School Trustee seat. The Catholic Trustee is acclaimed.
This is a race that shouldn’t be happening, in that the candidate challenging incumbent Councillor Brenda Johnson is not running a campaign, and could not articulate his reasons for running beyond he thought it was a good idea. This is the sleepiest campaign in the city.
An interesting note of trivia, neither candidate lives in the new Ward 11.
As for the Public School Trustee race, in a Trustee seat shared with Ward 12, there are two challengers to incumbent Alex Johnstone. Both Blake Hambly and Bruce Carnegie are running strong campaigns, Johnstone is working hard for reelection, its hard to say what will happen.
The Catholic School Trustee race, in a seat shared with Ward 9, is one of the most competitive in Hamilton with four candidates: Antonio (Tony) Di Mambro, Karmen Crea, Louis Agro, and Tyler Iorio.
Controversy plagued incumbent Councillor Lloyd Ferguson has benefited from a lot of positive media coverage, and a split field of challengers.
fffffWhat to watch for in Ward 12 is the showings of the challengers, with a good likelihood that this is Ferguson’s final term, especially if Ferguson loses his majority voting bloc on Council.
Running are: Ferguson, John Scime, Miranda Reis, Mike Bell, and Kevin Marley.
The Catholic School Board Trustee election sees two excellent candidates registered to run. Both Phil Homerski and Neil Chopp are well qualified and able to represent Catholic electors.
See above in Ward 11 for discussion of the Public School Trustee race, Ward 11 and 12 share a seat on the HWDSB.
Regardless of ward boundary changes, incumbent Arlene Vanderbeek was going to face a difficult race for re-election after making a series of unpopular decisions, such as the sale of a public laneway.
With ward boundary changes, Vanderbeek now has to cover western rural Flamborough as part of the new Ward 13.
Vanderbeek took out a print negative ad against Rich Gelder, stating he will raise taxes in Dundas because Gelder is pro-LRT and pro-transit; such a move indicates that Gelder is seen as a threat to Vanderbeek’s re-election.
Gelder has distinguished himself from the field by being strongly pro-LRT and holding to his political beliefs, stating at a debate that he’s prepared to die on the hill of LRT because ‘it’s a hill worth dying on’. His path to victory is securing the pro-LRT vote, and seeing the anti-LRT vote and others split among the other candidates.
Vanderbeek’s path to victory is a widely-split vote, and picking up support in Greensville and rural Flamborough.
John Mykytyshyn brings decades of political experience into the race, and has been able to capture good support in Greensville and rural Flamborough. Picking up small-c conservative voters in Dundas proper, and voters are who dissatisfied with Vanderbeek and against LRT could be his key to victory.
Newcomers Kevin Gray, Gaspare Bonomo, and John Roberts deserve respectable showings, Gray has particularly stood out among the rookie candidates.
Pam Mitchell ran for the second time, and articulated her ideas well at debates and on The 155 Podcast. Her candidacy contributes much to the discussion, and must be commended.
For Catholic School Trustee, see above in Ward 12 for comments on both excellent candidates, Ward 13 shares its HWCDSB seat with Ward 12.
Current Ward 13 and 14 Public School Trustee Greg Van Geffen is not seeking relection, the new Ward 13 has very similar boundaries, hence there is a single Public School Trustee for the new Ward 13.
The HWDSB candidates are Noor Nizam, Sukhi Dhillon, Chris Parr, Paul Tut, and Steven James Laur. Having interviewed all of them, I can state each is qualified, capable, and committed to the role, electors cannot go wrong with any of the choices.
Judi Partridge is seeking re-election as Ward 15 Councillor, until such time as another political opportunity arises, having sought election as the Liberal Party of Ontario candidate in the last provincial election – despite being a small-c conservative and now anti-LRT.
Susan McKechnie is the story in Ward 15, having mounted a strong enough campaign to cause Partridge to seek mutual support with Vito Sgro using the LRT as a wedge issue.
With a two-way race, we do need to look at Ward 15 tonight, but I suspect that Sgro’s blanketing of Ward 15 with robocalls, and media coverage in the final days, will help Partridge to gain a healthy margin of victory.
The Catholic School Trustee incumbent is acclaimed.
Incumbent Public School Trustee Penny Deathe is seeking re-election with one challenger seeking the seat: Janet Creet.
Deathe has proven to be a good trustee, and should win re-election.