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Metro column: ‘Striking 180’ for city voters

By DJ Kelly October 8, 2010

“Throw all the bums out!” Remember one year ago when that was all we heard from our friends, neighbours and media?

Well, Ric McIver is still polling in first place for mayor. True, Naheed Nenshi and Barb Higgins are not that far behind, but the results of a recent poll of who we might vote for alderman shows a much wider gap between the incumbents and their challengers.

According to the O’Connell Enterprises poll, in every single ward where the incumbent is running again, they are leading. And not just a small lead — in most cases it’s gigantic.

For a city that just nine months ago was swept up in palpable anti-council sentiment, this is a striking 180.

Take Ward 1 as an example. In 2007, Jennifer Banks came surprisingly close to defeating Dale Hodges, an incumbent who, even three years ago, was believed to be well past his prime.
If Calgarians really believed it was time for a sweeping change, you might think council’s longest serving member would be first on the hit list. Of residents who say they have chosen their candidate, Hodges currently has 80 per cent support. That’s crazy high considering this was supposed to be the year of the angry voter.

It doesn’t end there. Ald. Lowe has 72 per cent of decided voters, Ald. Stevenson has 67 per cent, Ald. Jones 88 per cent, Ald. Farrell 52 per cent, Ald. Mar, 74 per cent; Ald. Chabot, 88 per cent; Ald. Pincott, 55 per cent; and Ald. Colley-Urquhart, 81 per cent.

Only Linda Fox-Mellway in Ward 14 has less support than all of her competitors put together, at 37 per cent. Even so, she’s currently leading the race, according to the poll.

Have we really changed our minds this much in just one short year? In wards where there is no incumbent, every race is much closer, with not a single candidate even coming close to having majority support.

The biggest story, though, could be the number of undecided voters. In every ward the number of voters who haven’t made up their mind vastly outnumber those that have. “Undecided” describes 34-64 per cent of voters in each area.

So the big question is, who will the “undecided” vote for? Will they go with the incumbent they know, or will they tap into the rapidly disappearing ‘fresh start sentiment’ and pick a newcomer?

All it will take is one snowfall to remind us of how we felt last winter. One dumping of snow and we could have a whole new council.

If next week is sunny, I suspect we’ll have the same council we’ve had for the past three years.

Original: http://www.metronews.ca/calgary/local/article/657223–striking-180-for-city-voters