The re-election campaign for Toronto’s embattled Mayor Rob Ford is less than a day old, but political experts are already predicting that his populist stance and celebrity status could return him to office for another four years.
Ford formally launched his re-election campaign on Thursday night at the Toronto Congress Center, where he spoke before 2,000 supporters, whom he told about his imperfections, repentance and desire to continue being transparent. A mayor in name only, Ford was stripped of many of his powers and much of budget after admitting last year to smoking crack cocaine while in office, purchasing illegal drugs in the last two years and drunken driving.
With such shortcomings, Ford said he’s running on his record of keeping taxes low, curbing government spending and being an ever-present roadblock for special-interest groups.
“He has admitted to behavior that would have sunk any other politician long before now,” Myer Siemiatycki, a politics professor at Ryerson University, told CBC News. “He manages to connect and keep a base of support for a variety of reasons, including his single-minded messaging around holding the line on taxes. That is a message that resonates.”
“Then there’s the celebrity factor,” Siemiatycki added.
Ford faces serious challenges in the Oct. 27 election from center-right candidate John Tory, a former member of the provincial parliament, and Olivia Chow, a former New Democratic Party member of parliament. Chow currently leads Ford in voter preference 34 percent to 27 percent, and Tory is close behind with 24 percent, according a poll from Forum Research Inc.
“Winning isn’t insurmountable with 200 days left to go in the campaign,” Forum Research President Lorne Bozinoff told the CBC.
Ford was first elected to run Canada’s most populous city in 2010 on promises to cut spending at City Hall. His strongest support comes from the suburbs, where his pro-tax-cutting message resonates with voters.
“I know I’m the right person for the next four years to continue doing the right job at the right time. That’s what gets me fired up,” Ford told the crowd. “Folks, if you have my back when they start throwing mud, if you have my back when I’m standing up to the special interests, if you have my back no matter what the weather is on Election Day, I promise you, Rob Ford will have your back for the next four years.”