Campaign tactics raising eyebrows
Carbonear mayoral candidate Desmond Ledwell drawing attention, but not all of it is positive
The echo of a man’s voice from a loud speaker rings through the open window of a home on Valley Road in Carbonear.
Its occupants look up from the Friday afternoon renovation job they are completing to see a full-sized white cargo van outfitted with a boom lift driving at a slow pace. There are campaign signs affixed to the van.
The voice belongs to Desmond Ledwell, a relative newcomer to the Conception Bay North town, but a man who’s name is quickly garnering notoriety.
He has taken to the street in his business vehicle to promote his election campaign, which last week took a controversial and unusual twist.
This political neophyte wants his voice heard and not just through the streets of town. Ledwell wants to be mayor.
His style of campaigning is a throwback to an earlier era of politics, and was just one of the quirky antics turning heads last week as he attempted to lure voters.
His quest for the top elected post in Carbonear began just one hour before the close of nominations on Aug. 28, and it caught many by surprise.
The biggest question? Who is Desmond Ledwell?
Ledwell can usually be seen in a pair of coveralls, a ball cap and work boots, but he demonstrated a very different persona when he arrived at The Compass office on Water Street Sept. 5 to discuss his mayoral candidacy.
Ledwell had freshly cut locks and wore jeans with a button down shirt, quite different from his usual attire.
He appeared casual, but confident with a smirk on his face as he entered the building.
Many residents of the town have been chatting about this “unknown” man that has stepped up to tackle two very prominent and popular figures — Sam Slade and Ches Ash — for the mayor’s seat in this election.
Excited to announce his plans, Ledwell sat down, took a deep breath and began to relay his message.
Motivation to run
This tall and slightly cumbersome man chose to run for mayor days before the nomination deadline, stating current Mayor Sam Slade — his neighbour — was a big influence.
“I asked Sam, ‘what are you going to do about the roads?’” Ledwell said. “He said it takes a lot and there is a lot of red tape. So I asked what he was going to do to help me from beating up my truck.”
Ledwell said the only response Slade would give him is that patchwork and pothole filling would be done.
“That’s not a plan Sam,” he said, raising his voice and slamming his fist. Ledwell said he was invited by Slade to a party on election night, and decided at that moment to run for mayor.
“A man who wants to have a party before he’s even elected would never get my vote,” Ledwell added. “I like to party too, but I’m not going to celebrate until the job is done.”
In fairness, the condition of municipal roads in Carbonear was a hot topic at recent council meetings, and council has allocated funding for pothole repairs, resurfacing and other upgrades.
Already some controversy
Ledwell’s campaign strategies have raised some eyebrows, but none as much as the posters he taped to buildings, signs and utility poles in the town last week.
One of the posters referenced an elderly Carbonear resident who’s water was supposedly disconnected by the town a decade ago, and suggested the man “drinks water from a ditch” and was “left to rot” by the town.
“I will show how easy it is to have his water restored,” Ledwell wrote.
“A man who wants to have a party before he’s even elected would never get my vote. I like to party too, but I’m not going to celebrate until the job is done.”
– Desmond Ledwell
The man’s name is displayed very prominently atop the document, and Ledwell’s signature is at the bottom.
The Compass has decided not to publish the man’s name, out of respect for him and his family.
According to town officials, the contents of the poster are inaccurate.
Family members of the elderly man also confirmed permission was not given for Ledwell to put up the posters, and the information included on them is false.
Members of the man’s family declined to speak publicly about the posters, but expressed anger that he was being drawn into the campaign, and described the poster’s contents as “slanderous.”
Ledwell said he stands by putting up the signs and thinks the backlash is a tactic to have him remove his name from the ballot.
“They’re running scared now,” he stated. “I’m not trying to make anyone mad. I’m just trying to get help for (the man).”
Ledwell has flooded the town with several different posters, taking on issues such as showing appreciation for volunteers, the need for increased funding from other levels of government, infrastructure maintenance, what he sees as a lack of communication with residents by the town, and the upkeep of playgrounds.
Ledwell appeared passionate throughout the entire interview, showing anger, frustration and sadness at all the issues he discussed.
As he left, he glanced back over his shoulder, put up two fingers and announced “peace out,” before driving away in his work vehicle with the speaker still on the roof.
Desmond Ledwell put his name on the mayor’s ballot for Carbonear and has been using unusual tactics to garner support.