Without Incumbent, 2014 Mayor's Race Opportunity to Focus on Future, Without Baggage of Current Term

Hamilton SkylineMayor Bob Bratina’s decision to not seek a second term as Mayor means Hamilton will hold a mayoral race without an incumbent – for the second time since amalgamation.

The Mayoral campaign of 2000 – the first for the amalgamated City – was seen as a four-way race and we had some discussion of what a new City of Hamilton would look like. But, without knowing how an amalgamated Hamilton would work, we focused much of our discussion on the suburban/Old Hamilton divide. In the end, the only suburban candidate for Mayor (of the four) won handily.

In 2003, Mayor Bob Wade retired. Larry DiIanni and David Christopherson faced off for the Mayoral chain of office. With a single wedge issue – the Red Hill Valley Parkway – dominating the campaign, DiIanni won the race with a comfortable margin of over 10% as the lower City’s Wards 1 to 4 and Dundas voted for Christopherson, and the rest of the City – especially Stoney Creek and Ancaster – voted for DiIanni.

With the focus squarely upon the Red Hill Valley Parkway, and the lingering grievance of amalgamation, we didn’t have a fulsome discussion in 2003 of what we want our new City to be.

2006, we had a partial discussion about the future of our City, but the primary narrative was about the Municipal Election Act violations of the incumbent Mayor Larry DiIanni and frustration with with City Council. We tossed out DiIanni, and had a new Mayor in Fred Eisenberger.

Fast forward to 2010, we had a debate about a stadium and tossed the incumbent Mayor over it and frustration with City Hall. In the process, we elected a man without much of a platform in Mayor Bob Bratina.

We can’t repeat the pattern of focusing on the incumbent and electing a new Mayor on the merit of them not being the incumbent. We also must avoid defining our election on a single wedge issue – Light Rail Transit. LRT is a one part of the discussion about the future of Hamilton.

We have an opportunity to really have good discussion about the direction of our City and how City Hall fits into the budding revival of Hamilton after 20 years of economic restructing and change to our local economy.

The question is: will we take it?

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