Outsiders, Twitter, and a Left-Wing Swing: Early reaction to City of Prince George election results
So here we are. The new mayor of Prince George is Lyn Hall. Incumbents Briank Skakun, Murray Krause, Albert Koehler, and Frank Everitt are in. So are newcomers Jillian Merrick, Terri McConnachie, and Susan Scott. Cameron Stolz and Dave Wilbur, both multi-term incumbents, are out. You had to place eighth to get elected, Wilbur was tenth and Stolz was twelfth, so there were a couple other upstarts who fared better than them.
I’m calling it mixed results for democracy. On the one hand, yay! Record turnout. On the other hand, 34.3% sets the record for turnout? I’m guessing that puts us somewhere in the middle of the pack.
That said, as Neil Godbout points out, your vote mattered. Shari Green won the last election with 6,969 votes. Don Zurowski lost this one with 8,850. If you want to look at things this way, that means this is a more representative victory for Lyn Hall, because more people actually voted for him. Still, his 10,463 means he is now mayor with only about 18% of the eligible population voting for him.
Neil has some other good insights, which I encourage you to read over on the Citizen site. Here’s a few of my thoughts to go along with them:
- I wonder what the ouster of Stolz says about how Shari Green would have fared had she attempted to run for mayor again? Rightly or wrongly, Stolz was seen by some as Green’s wingman, and he did not do well in this run when you consider most incumbents are returning to their council seats.
- Related to the above, inasmuch as there is a “left” and a “right” in city politics, this was a win for the left. Hall’s support was based more in labour, education and social groups where Zurowski was the business candidate. All seven candidates endorsed by the North Central Labour Council were elected, as well, and CUPE’s support of newcomers Merrick and McConnachie probably didn’t hurt.
- On that subject, the rise of Garth Frizzell is something to see. In 2011 he squeaked in at seventh. This time he finished third, just below the perennial favourites Brian Skakun and Murry Krause. I don’t have exact numbers, but I noted partway through the last council that Frizzell was often on the outside of council votes, alongside Skakun. Elsewhere, pundits took note of the fact that he was, at times, frozen out of committees. Outsider status doesn’t seem to hurt Skakun, I’m curious if some of that rubbed off on Frizzell. I’d temper that with the observation that Frizzell is not nearly as prone to making headlines for being on the outs with other councillours, I’d say only close observers would have even noticed.
- Neighbourhoods: Well, since I made a map of where the candidates lived, let’s find out where the new council lives. We’ve got a mayor in College Heights, one councillour in College Heights, another in the Heritage area, one near Candy Cane Lane, one west of town near Mud River, one just north of the Nechako, one near Fort George Park, one near Carney and the Crescents, and one in the Crescents. Looking at the results by polling station, I’m not seeing any strong correlation between where a candidate lives and how many votes they get. So there you go.
- Twitter: All nine people elected last night except for Krause are on Twitter. Of the incumbents, I’d classify Koehler as the most active, followed by Skakun, Frizzell, and Hall. Hall has been on since January and has increased his activity during the campaign, so I’m curious to see if that keeps up (the last mayor deleted her Twitter after becoming mayor). I’m not entirely sure Frank Everitt is aware of the fact he’s on Twitter. Of the newcomers, I’d say it’s a safe bet Merrick will stay active since she’s been on there since well before the campaign. Scott and McConnachie are unknowns – both joined just a few months ago, and they have less than one hundred tweets combined. At this rate, I doubt they’ll be active, but maybe some of their fellow councillours will change their mind. I could delve into Facebook, but honestly, Facebook bores me for this sort of analysis. I don’t know why, it just does.
- Growth: Does population growth matter to voters? Don Zurowski made the march to 100,000 people the cornerstone of his campaign and, not surprisingly, when asked to rank it on his list of priorities by the Free Press, he put in number one. More interesting, to me, is that Hall ranked it thirteenth, in last place. As did Skakun, Krause, Frizzell, Merrick, and McConnachie. Everitt and Scott put it fourth and Koehler placed it ninth. So it doesn’t look like growing to 100,000 is going to be a priority for the next four years, and voters might be just fine with that.
- Finally, I’m going to echo Godbout’s sentiment of Merrick as one to watch. I’ve actually been covering her as a politician for close to a decade now- I was news editor of UNBC’s student newspaper when she was president of the student council. When she announced she was going to run, I was curious… I knew she had the ability to engage with people in small groups, but I wasn’t sure how well that would translate to a municipal run. But her bike-riding, backyard-chicken-raising campaign, complete with homemade election signs resonated enough to make her the highest-ranked non-incumbent of this whole thing. And I’d wager that at least some of the increase in voter turnout has to do with her – people I’ve never known to be particularly passionate about municipal politics were talking about her and announcing their intention to vote. I wish we could look at those numbers and see what the demographics are, but either way she brought an interest in municipal politics to circles where there was none, and it paid off.