About 200 candidates will be fighting for your attention over the next five weeks wanting to talk about everything from potholes to policing.
By the deadline Friday, 179 candidates had filed nomination papers for the 91 available council positions in the capital region for the Oct. 20 civic elections.
That doesn’t include candidates for school district, Islands Trust or electoral areas.
In Victoria, nine challengers have filed papers to run against incumbent Mayor Lisa Helps. And 29 people, including six incumbents, are hoping to fill the eight Victoria councillor chairs.
Some of the most-watched races will be in the four core municipalities of Victoria, Saanich, Oak Bay and Esquimalt — municipalities where all four incumbent mayors are facing challenges.
As nominations closed, the gloves were coming off in Saanich.
News broke that in the four-way battle for mayor, incumbent Richard Atwell is taking legal action in an attempt to stop challenger Coun. Fred Haynes from distributing campaign literature that identifies Atwell as a former director of Amalgamation Yes.
“I think it can only do [Saanich mayoral candidate] Rob Wickson good, actually, if the two of them keep throwing mud at each other,” Leonard said.
In all, 22 people are running for Saanich council including the four running for mayor. There are eight seats for councillors.
In Victoria, where affordability, bike lanes, homelessness and the removal of the John A. Macdonald statue from the steps of City Hall will all be campaign issues, just being heard among the 39 voices will be a challenge.
The name recognition that comes with incumbency will help but that recognition can be both a blessing and a curse, said Michael Prince, Lansdowne professor of social policy at the University of Victoria.
“I mention the advantages of incumbency but with that comes baggage,” Prince said, citing Helps as an example.
“Her decisions over the last couple of years have been controversial, high-profile ones that have been very divisive. Either you support her or you don’t on a number of these issues.”
Despite the baggage, Leonard said, Helps will be hard to beat. “The political demographic of Victoria seems to lean toward the re-election of Lisa Helps. So I don’t know if any of those other candidates can capture that kind of support.”
Both Leonard and Prince predicted several interesting mayoralty races, citing Saanich, Victoria and Oak Bay as ones to watch.
“I think the debate in Esquimalt will be interesting,” Leonard said. I wouldn’t dare say it would be close but [challenger] John Roe is pretty outspoken so I would expect there’s going to be some good debaters.”
Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen is facing a challenge from Coun. Kevin Murdoch, who has been on the losing side of a lot of four-three council votes in the last term — some of them on controversial development issues.
Prince and Leonard predicted a tough battle for Oak bay’s top job.
“It’s always interesting when two insiders are going after each other,” Prince said.
“It gives it a different dynamic when you’ve got an incumbent councillor going after an incumbent mayor.”
Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins, who lost a bid for a provincial seat as a Liberal, is facing off against Roe, who founded the Veins of Life Watershed Society. Roe is is calling for some of the $17 million in amenity funds the township is receiving for hosting the new sewage treatment plant to be used to upgrade Esquimalt’s aging and deteriorating storm sewers instead of mainly on parks and recreation.
In North Saanich there will be a two-way race to replace retiring Mayor Alice Finall, but all the council candidates were acclaimed. The candidates vying to fill the mayor’s position are Coun. Geoff Orr and Dorothy Hartshorne, a former councillor who finished a close second to Finall in 2014.
For the first time in four elections Langford Mayor Stew Young has a challenger. Political newcomer Robert Fraser is taking on Young, who has run unopposed in the last three elections.
There will be no going to the polls in Highlands where Mayor Ken Williams and six councillors (five incumbents and newcomer Rose Stanton) were acclaimed.
Other being acclaimed are: View Royal Mayor David Screech, Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor and Metchosin Mayor John Ranns.
It will be déjà vu in Sidney where Mayor Steve Price is again facing Cliff McNeil-Smith, a former councillor, who ran for the mayor’s job in 2014.
Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton is facing an internal challenge from incumbent councillor Rob Martin.
Interest is high in Sooke where 16 candidates, including three mayoralty candidates, are running for seven council spots.
Sooke Mayor Maja Tait is facing challengers Mick Rhodes and Kevin Pearson.
And there will be elections in three Capital Regional District electoral areas.
In Juan de Fuca, incumbent director Mike Hicks is being challenged by Daniel Yates. In the Southern Gulf Islands, David Howe is being challenged by Ken Hancock, and on Salt Spring Island former director and NDP MLA Gary Holman is facing off against Salt Spring Island transportation chair Robin Williams.