Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 20, 2014
After the dust at city hall settled on Tuesday, the field was set for another civic election, with this go-around being a small piece of the 2010 incarnation.
That election saw a handful of candidates for mayor, as well as all but four wards in play. It also saw a list of more than a dozen potential trustee candidates, yours truly included, vying for nine spots at the table.
Challengers for the spots “came out of the woodwork,” so to speak, and the debate that ensued as a result made for some very consumable civic content.
Fast-forward four years and six wards will be acclaimed following the Oct. 22 election. This result leaves some of the potential for intriguing storylines and challenges to the current administration stalled in the gate.
Of the six wards to be acclaimed, all but one will see current councillors returning to the table — Jeff Fawcett (Assiniboine), John LoRegio (Meadows), Shawn Berry (Linden Lanes), Jan Chaboyer (Green Acres) and Jeff Harwood (University). First-time council candidate Barry Cullen will be acclaimed in Victoria ward, formerly patrolled by longtime council member and former police officer Murray Blight.
With the six acclamations, it is all over but the formalities in those wards, shifting our focus to the seats currently at play. The races to watch are Riverview, Richmond, South Centre and the political playground that is Rosser ward.
First off, the Riverview race presents probably the widest spread of ideologies in the current civic election. Perennial political candidate Vanessa Hamilton will look to finally move on from the challenges of previous campaigns by shedding her outward party politics to take a seat at the table. Hamilton is eager to win and may actually be in position to do so this time around, but it won’t come easy.
Facing challenger Tyson Tame, Hamilton will be put to the test in taking on the de facto incumbent role as a Riverview resident with current Coun. Len Isleifson stepping aside. For the most part, this appears to a race where Hamilton has the most to lose as it pertains to her political future.
For all the politicking that has been prevalent in Riverview, the opposite seems to be the case in Richmond. The campaigning, for the most part, has been pretty silent from challengers Ray Berthelette and Ron W. Brown. Both candidates are in for a steep learning curve as ward expansion and a growing number of new residents makes connecting increasingly difficult, especially in such a short campaign.
Also, whoever is successful in the race has big shoes to fill in following Stephen Montague on council. Whether residents liked the approach of the soon-to-be former councillor or not, Montague was very good at keeping the ward in the public eye while not shying away from some of the challenges faced by council.
The South Centre ward is another battle that is shaping up to be exciting, as both candidates, Kim Longstreet and Lonnie Patterson, have been active for some time quietly campaigning.
As with Richmond, whoever is successful in South Centre has big shoes to fill in replacing longtime councillor Garth Rice.
His tenure as the ward’s representative spanned more than a decade and his approachable and thoughtful nature made him an easy choice for council.
Lastly, the big battle that is shaping up — aside from the mayoral race — is the one for the Rosser ward council seat.
This seat has always been a focal point in the community and there is a long list of politicians who cut their teeth in Rosser. This will be one to watch as four candidates are vying for the spot with each having a unique skill set to serve the ward.
I see this ward coming down to whoever is able to garner enough support and funds to offset what will be a very public campaign by James O’Connor.
While Coun. Corey Roberts is the incumbent, he faces the toughest challenge as any of the other candidates seeking the ward would also be good for council.
At the end of the day, it is still Roberts’ race to lose, but his bid for a sophomore term won’t come easy.
All in all, it is shaping up to be an interesting civic election race to watch, albeit short on names to choose from.
Here’s hoping that the battles that do take place for seats bring the best people forward to the council table with fresh ideas following the election.
The residents of this great city deserve it.