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Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz confirms he won't seek re-election; seven others running

WINNIPEG - Winnipeg will be getting a new mayor this fall.

Sam Katz, who has served as mayor for a decade, confirmed his decision shortly after the city's firefighter's union sent out a news release saying he would not be running again.

Although Katz told reporters he had made the decision several months ago, he had been coy about his plans as seven contenders lined up to succeed him. Among those running again is former federal NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis, whom Katz defeated in 2010.

Katz said he initially intended to serve two terms as mayor and is looking forward to spending more time with his family.

"After 10 years, you do sacrifice family time and my family is important to me," he told reporters Friday.

Katz has been a controversial figure during his three terms as mayor, coming under fire for everything from his business dealings and cost overruns at city hall to comments about female Olympians.

In 2007 he called five female Olympic athletes "beautiful females" in a speech, adding later that being with them made him "feel like Hugh Hefner."

Several councillors called for his resignation more recently when it was revealed he bought a business in Arizona from the city's top bureaucrat for $1. He was further criticized when it came to light he purchased a million-dollar Arizona home from the sibling of an executive of Shindico, a Winnipeg development company.

Shindico was involved in several real estate deals with the city, including a controversial land swap deal, and cost overruns in the construction of several fire halls that led to the resignation of the city's top manager, Phil Sheegl.

Katz was later taken to court by a restaurant owner who alleged he broke Manitoba's conflict of interest legislation when a restaurant he owned threw a $3,000 Christmas party for city councillors and staff. Both a lower court and the Manitoba Court of Appeal vindicated Katz.

During his mayoralty, Katz pledged to freeze property taxes — something he managed to do until 2012 when he said the city needed to invest in its crumbling infrastructure. He also cut business taxes and oversaw construction of rapid transit bus corridors.

Winnipeg is in a good place, Katz said.

"This city has been moving forward in a very positive manner," he said. "People are very excited about what's going on in the city."

Political pundits argued that Katz might have had an uphill battle to get re-elected. One of the front-runners, privacy lawyer Brian Bowman, has already been endorsed by some of Winnipeg's top businesspeople, including NHL Winnipeg Jets owner Mark Chipman.

Both Bowman and Wasylycia-Leis wished Katz well on social media, while the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg lauded him.

"The support of Mayor Katz has led to increased funding for the fire department ranging from new fire halls to staffing to protective clothing, vehicles and equipment," the union said in a release. "Our job has become safer because of the leadership of Mayor Sam Katz."

Katz became mayor in 2004 when the incumbent at the time, Glen Murray, decided to seek federal office.

Winnipeg voters are to go to the polls in October.

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