Could Gregor Robertson lose the 2011 Vancouver mayoral election?

Could Gregor Robertson lose the 2011 Vancouver mayoral election?
Charlie Smith, October 31, 2011

Last week, I ran into NPA mayoral candidate Suzanne Anton at the Loden Hotel’s third-anniversary party.

At the time, she insisted that she is going to win the November 19 mayoral election against the incumbent, Vision Vancouver’s Gregor Robertson.

On the surface, Anton’s claim sounds absurd. Robertson still enjoys a high personal-approval rating. And in 2008, he trounced the NPA’s Peter Ladner by almost 20,000 votes.

Robertson’s 67,598 votes were the highest for a mayoral candidate since COPE’s Larry Campbell received 80,772 votes in the 2002 election.

In the past 15 years, Sam Sullivan received the most votes of any NPA mayoral candidate—61,543 in 2005. Ladner attracted nearly 13,000 fewer votes in the last election.

Traditionally, NPA mayoral candidates can expect to receive about 50,000 votes. That’s what the NPA’s Philip Owen collected in both the 1996 and 1999 campaigns.

So for Anton to win the election, she would have to improve on that total. Plus, Robertson would have to lose at least 15 percent of the votes he received in 2008. This would bring him down to about the same total as Vision Vancouver’s 2005 mayoral candidate, Jim Green, who lost narrowly to Sullivan.

How could this occur? Anton would need a lot of help. First off, Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver mayoral candidate Randy Helten would have to perform exceptionally well in the race.

The last third-party mayoral candidate to win more than 10,000 votes was former NPA councillor Jonathan Baker, who ran in 1996. Helten would probably have to improve on that, because he’s certain to take some votes away from Anton, as well as any votes he pries away from Robertson.

Secondly, Anton will probably need some freaky weather on election day. In 1996, there was a snowstorm in Vancouver on voting day, which drove down turnout. The NPA ended up winning every seat on council, school board, and park board.

Without these two things coming together—rotten election-day weather and a stronger-than-expected performance by Helten—it’s hard to see how Anton can become Vancouver’s next mayor. But stranger things have occurred in the political world. It’s still too early to count her out of the race.

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