White­head bails, Sgro bides his time

Hamil­ton’s may­oral race still short of con­tenders but that could change

The Hamilton Spectator - - Comment - ANDREW DRESCHEL Andrew Dreschel’s commentary ap­pears Mon­day, Wed­nes­day and Fri­day. adreschel@thes­pec.com @An­drewDreschel 905-526-3495

Now that Fred Eisen­berger has of­fi­cially filed his nom­i­na­tion pa­pers for re-elec­tion as mayor in the Oc­to­ber vote, let’s check the sta­tus of other po­ten­tial con­tenders.

First off, scratch Terry White­head. Af­ter giv­ing the prospect of run­ning for the top of­fice due con­sid­er­a­tion — in­clud­ing tap­ping in­for­ma­tion from a poll­ster and fo­cus group — the west Mountain coun­cil­lor is tak­ing a pass.

The rea­sons will prob­a­bly be mu­sic to Eisen­berger’s ears.

White­head says his re­search met­rics sug­gests Hamil­to­ni­ans by and large feel pos­i­tive about the city’s tra­jec­tory, which makes it dif­fi­cult to take on an in­cum­bent mayor.

From low un­em­ploy­ment rates to down­town re­vi­tal­iza­tion, from the city’s $43-mil­lion bud­get sur­plus to its AA-plus credit rat­ing, White­head be­lieves the com­mu­nity is feel­ing too con­fi­dent to pay much heed to ar­gu­ments about need­ing to switch lead­ers.

Given that per­ceived state of af­fairs, White­head fig­ures even Eisen­berger’s un­blink­ing sup­port for LRT wouldn’t be a piv­otal is­sue.

“When you have a pos­i­tive out­look on what’s hap­pen­ing in the com­mu­nity, it’s very dif­fi­cult to come in and say we need change.”

White­head even praises Mayor Fred with a faint damn. He says Eisen­berger may not in­spire peo­ple, but he’s sound and non­di­vi­sive.

“Peo­ple feel he’s safe, a safe per­son to park your vote with.”

It turns out White­head also faced a per­sonal ob­sta­cle to throw­ing his hat in the ring: His spouse was against it. “My wife never wanted me to take on the mayor. We have two chil­dren about to go into post-sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion and we want to deal with those issues first.”

So that leaves the Ward 8 coun­cil­lor try­ing to fig­ure out whether to run for re-elec­tion to coun­cil in the new Ward 8 or new Ward 14, both crea­tures of the new ward bound­aries im­posed on the city by the On­tario Mu­nic­i­pal Board.

On to Vito Sgro.

Sgro is a char­tered ac­coun­tant with vir­tu­ally no name recog­ni­tion but a re­sume that in­cludes stints as di­rec­tor of the Hamil­ton Port Author­ity, On­tario In­fra­struc­ture Corporation, and for­mer HECFI board.

In po­lit­i­cal cir­cles, he’s best known as a for­mi­da­ble Lib­eral campaign or­ga­nizer and for­mer pres­i­dent of the Hamil­ton East-Stoney Creek fed­eral Lib­eral rid­ing as­so­ci­a­tion.

Back in Jan­uary, Sgro said he was se­ri­ously con­sid­er­ing run­ning for mayor. He still is. But for strategic rea­sons he’s wait­ing for the smoke to clear from the June 7 pro­vin­cial elec­tion be­fore show­ing his hand.

That sug­gests Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive leader Doug Ford’s of­fer to let Hamil­ton spend the $1 bil­lion for LRT on other in­fra­struc­ture projects is a fac­tor in his think­ing.

As, no doubt, will be NDP leader An­drea Hor­wath’s bomb­shell dec­la­ra­tion to The Spec­ta­tor’s ed­i­to­rial board that if coun­cil re­jects LRT, it can still keep the money for other tran­sit-re­lated projects.

Sgro won’t say he’s against LRT. “I’m not anti-any­thing. I’m pro-ev­ery­thing. I al­ways look at the pos­i­tive side.”

But if he does run for mayor, Sgro says he’ll have four or five big issues that will clearly sep­a­rate him from Eisen­berger, tran­sit be­ing one of them.

“My pri­or­ity is to make sure Hamil­ton has the No. 1 lo­cally-run tran­sit sys­tem in the prov­ince.”

Sgro doesn’t buy White­head’s as­sess­ment that Hamil­ton’s up­swing makes chal­leng­ing Eisen­berger a daunt­ing prospect.

“Cam­paigns mat­ter,” he says, adding a strong well-funded op­er­a­tion with fresh ideas can help neu­tral­ize the ad­van­tage of in­cum­bency. “Stay tuned. This could be fun.” Speak­ing of fun, if Sgro or some­one else with the abil­ity to mar­shal campaign dol­lars and vol­un­teers doesn’t en­ter the race, at least Eisen­berger won’t have to de­bate him­self.

Ed­ward Gray­don, who placed 13 in a field of 15 can­di­dates in the 2010 may­oral race, has al­ready regis­tered.

And dea­mal­ga­ma­tion ad­vo­cate Ro­man Sarach­man says he in­tends to run if he fails to cap­ture the Flam­bor­ough-Glan­brook rid­ing for the Tril­lium Party in the pro­vin­cial elec­tion.

Based on past may­oral races, other un­con­ven­tional can­di­dates are al­most cer­tain to emerge.

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