Can Toronto Mayor Rob Ford really get re-elected?
He may have been videotaped smoking crack cocaine, he may have been recorded threatening murder, and he may have been stripped of his authority by city council, but that didn’t stop Toronto Mayor Rob Ford from seeking another term.
The defiant politician was first in line last week at Toronto City Hall to register for re-election in the October race, declaring himself the best mayor the city has ever had. This on the heels of weeks of controversy beginning with rumors of a videotape that showed him smoking crack, which eventually came to be more than just a rumor.
What followed was a media circus (and dream come true for reporters) as Ford continued to command the spotlight with outlandish comments at press conferences, a defiant attitude at City Council and a new video that showed him in a drug-fueled rant threatening to kill someone.
Like a car crash, the world couldn’t look away.
Through it all, Ford is still standing, refusing to step away or down, cool off, go to rehab or do any of the other things disgraced politicians usually do post-scandal. Instead, Ford is powering through full steam ahead with unabashed confidence, with his brother, a Toronto city councilor and his campaign manager, by his side.
But that isn’t the most surprising part of Ford’s saga. What’s most unbelievable is that Ford, who was popular for his fiscal conservatism, could very well get re-elected after all.
“Ford’s Nation, as his team calls it, is a hard core of suburban voters with a smattering of support among white working class minority communities in urban downtown Toronto,” Dr. Michael Behiels, a professor of Canadian political and constitutional history at the University of Ottawa, told Metro. “These voters have remained loyal to Ford through all the scandals. They will vote for Ford in the Fall Municipal election come hell or high water.”
It wouldn’t be the first time a fallen-from-grace politician made a comeback — it happens in the U.S. all the time (who can forget Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Buddy Cianci and Elliot Spitzer?) He also wouldn’t be the first mayor to get caught smoking crack, but still become mayor again. In 1990, It happened to Marion Barry, the former mayor of Washington, D.C. He served six months in federal prison. By 1994, he was back in office as mayor.
Canada, too, has plenty of cases, according to Behiels, who said the city of Toronto has seen its share of scandals involving city mayors — none, however, quite like Ford.
Still, never say never.
“Ford’s personal transgressions are a lot more serious than most of these former city mayors, but times have changed and voters seem more tolerant for personal transgressions today that they have been in the past,” Behiels said.
Ford’s potential success could teeter on the likeability of his contenders, Behiels said. The strongest candidate is likely Olivia Chow, a Canadian New Democratic Party Member of Parliament.
“She is very popular and could win if there are no other center-left candidates that will run and split the vote,” Behiels predicted. “Toronto City Conservatives now appear to be divided on Ford’s candidacy and some are pushing for another right wing candidate. If they find a strong conservative candidate, perhaps John Tory, this will split the right wing vote.”
As with any election, popularity will only get a candidate so far. The number gods could decide to smile upon Ford, possibly making him the first mayor in history to get caught smoking crack — and still be re-elected.
“If Toronto City Liberals decide to run a candidate — they have not found a strong one yet — then the opposition vote will be badly divided and Ford could easily win a plurality of the vote and become mayor once again,” Behiels said.
We’d say stranger things have happened, but we’re actually not sure.
Follow Cassandra Garrison on Twitter: @CassieAtMetro