It was a night of upsets in Capital Regional District civic elections Saturday as four mayors went down to defeat in Sidney, Oak Bay, Saanich and Colwood.
But, at the end of the evening, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps was still standing. She fended off nine challengers to win a second term in office.
“My goal was to win the election by 2,000 votes. We won by over 3,000 votes,” said Helps, whose nearest opponent was Stephen Hammond. Final vote numbers were not available at press time.
The race attracted so much interest that people were still in line to cast ballots at 8 p.m., forcing officials to keep the polls open.
Meanwhile, change was on the minds of voters across the region.
Two-term Coun. Kevin Murdoch defeated Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen, who was seeking his third term.
It was a victory Murdoch said was humbling.
“It’s always tough against an incumbent,” he said. “But to have not just a win but a pretty substantial win gives us a pretty clear mandate.”
Not only did voters endorse him, but they did so by a wide margin.
In Saanich, Coun. Fred Haynes, who long has been campaigning for the top job, defeated first-term Mayor Richard Atwell.
“That’s the way the cookie crumbles,” Atwell said. “I think we were probably out-campaigned by our opponent. I think he put business aside and a lot of things aside for four years.
“Congratulations for him. He’s wanted this for a long time. He’s worked really hard on it. I tried to do my job. So I felt I was mayor all that time and I was constantly competing with someone who was a candidate.”
As for Haynes, he sounded eager to start work.
“It’s going to be the most amazing council and I’m looking so forward to being a part of it,” he said.
In Colwood, Coun. Rob Martin defeated incumbent Mayor Carol Hamilton, taking 57.4 per cent of the vote.
Martin had 2,348 votes compared with Hamilton’s 1,694.
Martin believes his promise to bring new business and employment to Colwood resonated with voters.
“People want to have resources in their community,” he said. “They don’t want to leave their community to shop. They don’t want to leave their community to do business. And that came out loud and clear in this election.”
On the Saanich Peninsula, Cliff McNeil-Smith, a former councillor and owner of Tanner’s Books, trounced incumbent Sidney Mayor Steve Price.
McNeil-Smith, who lost to Price in 2014 out-polled him this time by about three to one.
He attributed his easy victory to the previous council’s handling of major development projects.
“People want to move forward — this community has always been moving forward — but they just felt there wasn’t the engagement there, that they weren’t being listened to,” he said.
Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins defeated John Roe, founder of the Veins of Life Watershed Society.
Voters in both Saanich and Victoria also supported each municipality spending up to $250,000 to have a citizens’ assembly investigate the possibility of amalgamation.
Going into Saturday’s vote, four of 13 local mayors: Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor, Highlands Mayor Ken Williams, Metchosin Mayor John Ranns and View Royal Mayor David Screech had been acclaimed. There were also two entire councils acclaimed in Highlands and North Saanich.
There was a race in North Saanich, however, to replace longtime Mayor Alice Finall, who retired.
Coun. Geoff Orr won the day, taking 2,592 votes compared with 1,415 for Dorothy Hartshorne, a former councillor.
“I’m so honoured to have the support in the way that the numbers came out,” Orr said.
Langford Mayor Stew Young easily beat political newcomer Robert Fraser, Young’s first challenger in four elections. Seven candidates were vying for six Langford council positions including five incumbents, who were all returned along with newcomer Norma Stewart.
In View Royal, incumbents Damian Kowalewich, John Rogers and Ron Mattson were returned and will be joined by Gery Lemon at the council table.
Elected to Colwood council were Doug Kobayashi, Dean Jantzen, Cynthia Day, Michael Baxter, Gordie Logan and Stewart Parkinson.
Central Saanich voters elected five incumbents and newcomer Gord Newton to council.
Sooke Mayor Maja Tait defeated challengers Mick Rhodes and Kevin Pearson. There were 13 candidates for the six council positions. Elected were: Brenda Parkinson, Megan McMath, Ebony Logins, Jeff Bateman, Jeff Stewart and Al Beddows.
While Ranns was acclaimed as Metchosin’s mayor, there was a council race as eight candidates vied for the four council seats. Results were unavailable at press time.