29 September 2009

Ron Ellsworth: R.I.P

The big political story of the 2009 St. John’s municipal election has got to be the political implosion of Ron Ellsworth.

The supremely ambitious fellow burst on the political scene in 2005 with a big win in Ward 4.  His lust for higher office was no secret and in 2008 he ran for the deputy mayor’s job grabbing more than 19,000 votes.

But he fumbled badly a little over a year later, polling almost 7,000 votes less than he got in 2008 and going down to defeat at the hands of one of the weakest mayoral incumbents in recent St. John’s history.

Heck the top six at large candidates all polled more votes than Ron Ellsworth.

Talk about a political catastrophe.

And in record time.

Ellsworth may have made a furtive try at municipal politics in 1997 but when he came on so strongly in 2005, he seemed to be destined for bigger things.

A mere four years later, he is politically left high and dry.

Maybe he’ll do -  as the rumours suggest -  and look to replace Bob Ridgley as the Tory candidate in St. John’s North provincially. 

If he does, Ellsworth will need to find new help with his political advertising.  Whoever did the work for him this time did him a huge disservice at every step.  The only mayoral campaign that sucked more was the winner’s. 

The surprise upset in the election has to be Danny Breen’s victory in Ward One over incumbent Art Puddister.  That isn’t the way your humble e-scribbler called the race and this is one case where it is great to be proven wrong.

St. John’s city politics and its appalling mail-in ballot system are notoriously skewed in favour of incumbents.  Where else but at Tammany on Gower could the polls close at 8:00 PM and the election machinery – literally a machine – could declare victors two minutes later?

It normally takes a herculean effort to unseat a townie incumbent unless you have some kind of momentum behind you as a local celebrity of sorts.  Name recognition and affability often count for  more than any demonstrated knowledge or ability. 

Whatever Dan Breen did to win, he deserves much praise and a whole pile of credit. No one helped him outside of his driven campaign team and that should prove interesting if and when some of the moneyed interests come forward looking for friends to return favours.  

Meanwhile, in the deputy mayor’s race, Shannie Duff handily defeated Keith Coombs.

That wasn’t much of a surprise since Coomb’s resort to negative ads was a huge tell that his campaign was getting desperate.  he wasn’t helped at all by the poor timing of them since they hit the papers – who reads any more – and the airwaves after the crucial date for voting. 

Coombs might have beaten Duff in a old-fashioned race, but he and his crew should have know all that the mail-in ballot system changes the voting dynamic dramatically. 

Pushing poorly executed negatives ads too late in the campaign was just a waste of time and money.  Going negative may have suppressed some of Duff’s vote – which is what going negative does – but it also may have turned off some of Coombs’ potential supporters as well.

At this point, it doesn’t matter.  Keith will have two years to get ready for a provincial run or four years if he wants to try and pull a Sears.  Maybe he an Ron will get together and compare notes.



Anonymous said...

No talk of Lono?

Anonymous said...

Simply put and well thought out Ed. I think Ron Ellsworth would have had a better chance of being mayor when he ran for deputy mayor. (There is where the mistake was made) Running a year later for another step on the wrung of the ladder, would have made sense if he was to be serving a 4 year term and accomplishments etc could be proven. But essentially the people of St. John’s elected their mayor in 2008. The continued endorsement being shown tonight was the people of St. John’s reaffirming their 2008 decision.
I was not surprised with the positive endorsement the people gave Sheila O’Leary, she being the only woman on the At large platform. Nearly Every woman who voted, I’m guessing voted for Shelia. Cheers to Shelia.
Puddister the only councilor with no website lost by as recorded at this point 160 votes. I would venture to say he lost because he never had a website. Or was not 100% accessible You snooze you lose,
Lono I will just say great shot. he missed it by this ___ much.
Cheers to Lono

Edward G. Hollett said...

Yeah 2216, he polled more than Ellsworth, again and as in 2005 spent a shitload less money to do it.

Anonymous said...


As a voter for Simon, I was disappointed he lost. But I think this was his best chance to win as the slate of at large candidates was weak and his campaign was very strong with excellent signage and web presence. Too bad he did not try for Hanlon's ward. Talk about no choice in that ward.

Anonymous said...

Lono at large rules as a slogan. he will eventually get elected.

Anonymous said...

Cripes, with the brood who will be putting their arses in the chairs at the concrete bunker after last nights election, we can expect more of the same foolishness. If that isn't bad enough, we will likely have to pay more for the privilage. I doubt this bunch will make any changes (reduction)to the mill rate, or decide to be fiscally responsible with our tax dollars.

Time to call a real estate agent and see if I can find some sucker to buy my st. john's home. Any good deals in Mount Pearl?

Edward G. Hollett said...

Hey, 801, welcome to the world of St. John's politics.

The only candidate committed to a revenue neutral tax regime was Lono. All the rest who mentioned it, Coombs included, were committed to tax increases.

O'Keefe is one of the weakest reeds to sit in the mayor's chair in a while. The fact that Ellsworth screwed that up so badly just adds to the magnitude of the tale of his political self-destruction.

At large was another racket altogether with Colbert, for example, reportedly taking a vacation during the campaign. He still got re-elected.

I never cease to be amazed at townie politics. They do the same things over and over again and then wonder why things are still shagged up.

Mark said...

There seemed to be a fair amount of turnover in every municipality except for St. John's. The capital is also (to my knowledge) the only municipality with mail in ballots. Any statistical analysis of the relationship between these to things would be welcome.

Anonymous said...

Coombs wasn't comitted to tax increases!! Where did you get that rubbish?
He promised to return the surplus, and you and others mocked him yet in the Telegram yesterday the Director of Finance for the City said there was a surplus.

Get real.
Congratulations to all who put their name on a ballot.

Edward G. Hollett said...

Coombs committed to a flat figure based on an estimate. The finance director talked about an estimate.

In at least one of his public appearances Coomb's said that Lono's mill rate - which would be revenue neutral - would give back more money than Coomb's flat figure.

It's pretty obvious Coomb's was in favour of a tax increase just as are all incumbents.

I'll stand by my assessment as being more accurate than anything Keith Coomb's said about Mile One surpluses he promised or your contention that he wasn't looking for a tax increase.

Anonymous said...

Lono was a weak candidate with an even weaker campaign.

O'Leary's people proved they are the real pros.

Edward G. Hollett said...

Such insights 1222, expressed in such a childish way.

Two things:

1. Lono polled more than Ron Ellsworth.

2. There are lots of pros out there and Sheilagh had a bunch of them.

Being such a sook, you should go held Charles Pender in CB

Anonymous said...

You keep saying he pulled more than Ellsworth, like that's a big accomplish considering this guy lost as well.

Edward G. Hollett said...

Well, if consider the amount of money Ellsworth spent both in 2005 and 2009, consider the number of volunteers etc, it's pretty significant that Lono polled more votes than he did.

Even if you compare the effort and cost for Lono versus O'Leary, there's a lesson in cost per vote to be considered.

WJM said...

Lono was a weak candidate with an even weaker campaign.

A candidate who nearly doubled his share of the vote over last time. Not bad, and certainly not weak.

Anonymous said...


I was disappointed that Lono never got in as he has gotten my vote the last two times he has run for municipal politics. But he has now run in three campaigns(prov and munci) and lost every time. Maybe someone who is fiscally responsible with good ideas is not electable in St. John's. I am shocked that Sandy Hickman had the second most votes in the "at large" category. It boggles the mind why people would vote for him over Lono. Hickman rarely speaks at council meetings, but when he does he usually asks for updates on stuff that (my guess is) if he was awake at private meetings he would know the answer. And the biggest pet peeve is that he wants to give more money to choirs, sports teams and half assed festivals instead of delivering much needed services to residents.

My only consolation last nite was that the people of St. John's had the wisdom to get rid of the financial guru Coombs.

Edward G. Hollett said...

First of all, lots of good people ran several occasions before they got elected.

There is no magic number and it would be ridiculous to count running as a Liberal in St. John's in 2007 as anything like a fair fight.

Second of all, I think Simon showed the largest increase in votes of anyone taking a second shot at it (incumbent or otherwise). Some incumbents did significantly worse this time than last time. Overall, I'd consider this a very strong showing for Simon.

Thir dof all, I'd disagree with you on Sandy. He may be quiet but he is a solid performer. Gimme 10 Sandy Hickmans any day over a Ron Ellsworth a Keith Coombs or some of the other bloowhards that have graced the council chamber. Now that's just my take on it. your objections are the kinds of objections people can make about a councilors performance.

Bill Parsons said...

Words escape me on last night's results in St. John's especially with the election of Hann & Colbert. A real opportunity for change on council particularly At Large and St. John's decided for pretty much the same. I don't know him but I thought Lono's call for an auditor is a fantastic idea and well overdue. People should be more passionate for oversight on how their tax dollars are spent.

Anonymous said...

You may be right on Hickman but I watch council regularly and he always appears as a guy who is confused, asking questions that he should know the answers to, etc. He just seems more concerned about sports teams than potholes and finances. That is my take from what I see every week. I disagree with you on Ellsworth but I think you are dead on with Coombs. I guess we will agree to disagree.

Anonymous said...

I was more disappointed that Ed didn't attack Whittle for predicting a win for Bernie Davis.

Edward G. Hollett said...

Well, Peter 2153, Whittle was running with what most of us were hearing and if you look at the results, it was pretty close.

Both Lono and Davis came as close as dammit to getting a seat.

And 1922, that's a thing where your mileage may vary. I've deal with Sandy in other venues and always found him to be sensible and sharp.