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.