OTTAWA - Former provincial cabinet minister Jim Watson has won the race for mayor in Ottawa.

With 60 per cent of all polls reporting Watson had 49 per cent of the vote, while incumbent Larry O'Brien had 24 per cent.

There were some 20 candidates vying for the mayor's chair, but it Watson, also a former Ottawa mayor, and O'Brien who were consistently out front in public opinion polls.

O'Brien was acquitted in August 2009 on influence-peddling charges related to allegations he promised a rival candidate a federal job in exchange for dropping out of the 2006 mayoral race.

The brash conservative, technology consultant and entrepreneur won that election in a landslide.

Polls closed in the Ottawa race — and in the majority of the 443 other Ontario municipal races — at 8 p.m. ET.

O'Brien's first budget increase was only 0.3 per cent, but city council increased levies more than three per cent in each of the last three budget years.

Watson pounced on the tax issue, deriding increases "well beyond the rate of inflation" and calling O'Brien's zero-means-zero promise a gimmick.

While mayor in the 1990s, Watson said he froze taxes for two years, reduced the city's debt load and increased its reserve funds.

In this campaign he promised to cap annual tax hikes at 2.5 per cent, well below the 2010 increase of 3.77 per cent approved by council earlier this year.

As the province's municipal affairs minister, Watson co-authored a deal to upload costs from local property taxpayers by taking social services off the property tax bill. Ottawa taxpayers will eventually save more than $120 million as a result of the initiative, he has said.

O'Brien has dismissed Watson as a professional politician.