Preliminary New Westminster election results are in, and the results are not entirely unexpected. As in the 2008 election, there is only one new face on City Council, but unlike last time, voters did opt for change on school board. And despite an energetic campaign by challenger James Crosty, incumbent mayor Wayne Wright won by a landslide.
Crosty used a variety of means to get attention, including launching a campaign to brand himself as a ‘citizen advocate’ months before declaring his candidacy, Tweeting frequently, hosting ‘citizen chats’ with interested voters and leveraging his position as the president of the Quayside Community Board, one of the city’s most effective residents’ associations, to improve name recognition and rally his base of supporters. Crosty hoped to tap into dissatisfaction with the status quo on issues such as train noise, municipal taxation and spending, and big-ticket projects like the new Pier Park (dubbed ‘Wayne’s Wharf’ by the Crosty campaign). But Crosty was also dogged by a series of gaffes, including accusations of plagiarism after lifting the answer to a candidates questionnaire from Wikipedia, lack of attendance at all-candidates’ events and Tweeting caustic responses to critical questions from voters. In the end, while some voters were receptive to the idea of change, they were not convinced that Crosty was the person to lead New Westminster in a new direction.
With about 60% share of vote vs. Crosty’s 30%, Wright’s win is a clear indication that a solid majority of voters believe New Westminster is on the right path. Most people I spoke to thought the city could do better in one way or another, but believed our town is far better off today than it was nine years ago, and they can see things getting even better once major downtown developments stickhandled by Wright are completed, including the new multi-use Civic Centre, the Plaza 88 development and the Pier Park.
On council, former councillor and NDP MLA Chuck Puchmayr easily won a seat, edging out incumbent Bob Osterman. Jaimie McEvoy, who just barely won his seat in 2008 came in with a much stronger showing with the third largest number of votes. Jonathan Cote also came out a winner, claiming the top spot with 6,481 votes. Cote ran his campaign the way he managed his previous years on council, with dedication, good humour and dogged persistence. The Cote campaign knocked on 3,100 doors during the campaign and participated in six 6:30am ‘Burmashave’ rallies to drum up support. All other incumbents won their seats, including Bill Harper, Betty McIntosh and Lorrie Williams.
The school board race turned out to be the most interesting. There were two vacant seats on the board, and most people expected District Labour Council-endorsed candidates Jonina Campbell and David Phelan to win those spots, but what I didn’t expect was that Campbell and Phelan turned out to be the most popular trustee candidates. It is a credit both to the quality of the candidates and to their campaigns, as it is notoriously difficult to break through as a new trustee. Another fresh face squeaked in too, Voice’s MaryAnn Mortensen. Incumbent trustee and fellow Voice colleague Jim Goring lost his spot. Incumbents round out the new school board: Voice’s Lisa Graham and Casey Cook and DLC-endorsed Michael Ewen and James Janzen.
So there you have it: a more progressive council and school board, and a clear endorsement of Mayor Wayne Wright’s vision and leadership for New West – at least for the next three years.