As you’ll read in today’s paper, the upcoming municipal election is finally starting to shape up like a real race.
A Probe Research poll done exclusively for the Brandon Sun asked Brandonites who they would vote for, given a hypothetical slate of seven mayoral contenders.
While it’s not likely that we’ll see a seven-way race for the chains of office — and at least one of the names we chose has already said unequivocally that he won’t be running — the poll results shed some interesting light on the early going.
Until last week, potential contenders seemed content to play a game of chicken, delaying their possible announcement
Then, former city councillor and deputy mayor Rick Chrest was first out of the gate with the declaration that he would seek the mayor’s job, eight years after stepping away from council.
In the poll, the furniture retailer has a strong position.
While it’s not quite “four out of five dentists” who prefer Chrest, he did take the No. 1 slot in the hypothetical matchup, with 29 per cent of poll respondents saying they would vote for him if they election were held now.
No doubt many voters approve of his business-friendly reputation, although we wonder if the notorious pink bunny suit from his recent furniture advertising will raise its ears during the campaign.
Speaking of pink, Chrest came in several points ahead of incumbent mayor Shari Decter Hirst, who nearly put a patent on that colour in the last election. Decter Hirst has been the victim of several political stumbles in the past few years; so much so that it is difficult to remember the very strong start she had to her inaugural term. Her flood-fighting acumen gave her enormous political capital and goodwill, despite early missteps like calling the city “closed for business” or scheduling a “victory parade” while Westman neighbours were still frantically sandbagging.
Those tone-deaf moments have seemed to set the, well, tone for recent years, but should Decter Hirst choose to run again, it’s important to recall that she’s still the same savvy and energetic campaigner who knocked political veteran Dave Burgess from his perch.
Third place in the poll went to Brandon East NDP MLA Drew Caldwell. Himself a former city councillor, Caldwell has (like Decter Hirst) so far coyly refused to confirm rumours that he’ll put his name forward as a mayoral contender.
We suspect that either he will, or she will, but not both.
Would just one left-of-centre candidate be able to consolidate the support that is currently split between them? Or would Chrest be able to pull some of those votes his way?
Bringing up the rear of our hypothetical slate are a number of names that have been bandied about, but who failed to draw much voter interest. Still, it would be unwise to ignore people like Stephen Montague, Len Isleifson, Kerry Auriat and Jim Murray. Even if they don’t run (both Montague and Auriat have said that they won’t), those four candidates drew the support of a total of 31 per cent of decided voters.
Together, that’s more than any of the top three candidates, evidence that this race is nobody’s to run away with. Adding to that, a full 19 per cent of people surveyed said that, even with seven names in front of them, they couldn’t find anybody to support or refused to name one.
As a city, Brandon will be well-served by a race that doesn’t have a foregone conclusion.
There are about nine months to go before Brandonites head to the ballot box. We look forward to them.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 31, 2014