Sam Sullivan is back. Well, almost. His Wednesday night win of the provincial Liberal nomination for Vancouver-False Creek still leaves the small matter of the May 14 election.
But Sullivan must surely see this as a bit of redemption following his humiliation at the hand of his civic NPA party five years ago. That’s when they refused to endorse the then-sitting mayor largely due to his inept administrative record. Instead, they supported his NPA nemesis on council, Peter Ladner. The Sullivan baggage Ladner was forced to carry into the election against Vision and Gregor Robertson proved an impossible burden.
Sullivan’s win also puts an end to a developing theory about a “civic curse” as the number of candidates with Vancouver municipal credentials failed to win contested nominations at the provincial level. These include Suzanne Anton, Geoff Meggs, Constance Barnes and even George Chow, who in a second attempt won a riding spot from the NDP for Vancouver-Langara by acclamation — one can only assume because that party is so unlikely to win the riding.
The turnout for the False Creek battle — where Sullivan faced former two-term Liberal MLA Lorne Mayencourt —was decidedly low at 29 per cent of the 1,800 signed-up members. Compare that with the 53 per cent who voted in the contest in Vancouver-Quilchena earlier this month where Anton was narrowly defeated by Andrew Wilkinson.
The simplest explanation is one that also points to why this could be a difficult riding to win. Most of the 1,800 Liberal cards were signed around the time of the Liberal leadership contest when Christy Clark prevailed. And most of those folks didn’t engage this time around either because of Clark’s sliding popularity or because of the transient nature of the population in a riding considered to have the youngest average voters of any in the province.
This is, by the way, the newest riding in the city and, unlike Quilchena, has not yet developed a sense of political cohesion spanning, as it does, territory from Yaletown to Kitsilano.
None of this explains why Mayencourt lost. I’d say he fully expected to win up to and including the point when his crew from his war room (where they were on phones all afternoon getting out their supporters in the nearby Wall Centre) finally flooded into hear the announced results.
I am certain they believed they were about to take it on the first ballot. They were wrong of course and they were “shocked.”
Mayencourt was so sure of a victory, in fact, that his media guys had already prepared a video with him announcing the win. Much to his embarrassment, that same video was posted on YouTube before the vote took place only to be discovered, reported on and reposted by Georgia Straight editor Charlie Smith.
It’s hard to say whether on the day of the vote Mayencourt was preoccupied or overconfident. He turned up in a pair of jeans to address the 100 or so in the crowd waiting for the polls to open and he began with a rather flat “my record speaks for itself” speech.
But the real fight of the evening was pulling out the vote. And for that Sullivan had his own group of warriors, also at the Wall Centre where they were on phones and computers.
Sullivan’s abilities in this area should never be underestimated. Christy Clark learned that the hard way when he beat her back when she sought the NPA mayoral nomination.
The most interesting speech of the evening came from neither of the heavyweights but from the third candidate, the 31-year-old lawyer Brian Fixter. He urged the Liberals to “throw out the past and embrace the future,” not to rely on “career politicians” and not to “cling to the fraying strands to the past.”
But his message was lost in the euphoria of Sullivan’s clear victory.
It was, by the way, the best result the NDP could have hoped for. But that is the stuff of a future column.
New Item: City hall sources say councillors being briefed on the long-awaited report on the Vancouver Art Gallery are hearing staff supports the controversial move to Larwill Park.