Former Ottawa mayor and current provincial cabinet minister and MPP for Ottawa West-Nepean Jim Watson will reportedly declare his intentions to resign from cabinet and run for mayor. The Ottawa Citizen today said that Watson would be a front-runner, and I agree. Watson has high name recognition from his days as mayor (when he won 83% of the pre-amalgamated city vote) and currently serving as a MPP and cabinet minister. Watson won over 50% of the vote in his Ottawa West-Nepean riding in 2007, and increase from his 2003 election. With a strong record of socially progressive but fiscal responsible policies, Watson will have strong appeal both in the city core that gave him 83% of the vote pre-amalgamation, and in the more suburban and rural area. Watson has my thumbs up for mayor and I look forward to working on his campaign.
With Watson gone from provincial politics, lets open the door to one of this blogs favourite subjects: nomination speculation! With this by-election probably being a two-way race between the Liberals and PC's, I'll focus on them. Note that this list is by no means exhaustive.
Bob Chiarelli: A former mayor himself and a previous member for the Ottawa West area, Chiarelli will probably be in the conversation. Since his defeat as mayor, he has remained active in local Liberal circles, campaigning for Liberal candidates in the 2007 provincial election, showing interest in the federal Ottawa West-Nepean nomination, and getting involved in local nomination campaigns on the federal level for the next election. In his two runs for mayor, Chiarelli carried the Ottawa West-Nepean area in 03, but not in 06.
Rick Chiarelli: Staying in the family, Bob's cousin Rick, a current city councillor, is another possibility. Rick ran unsuccessful for the Liberals in 1999, after former MPP and current mayoral candidate Alex Cullen crossed the floor to the NDP. Chiarelli is popular in his local Nepean area ward, winning almost 60% on his inital run in 2000, getting acclaimed in 2003, and winning 72% in 2006. Bob has higher name recognition, but Rick might have less baggage.
Cyrus Reporter: Longtime Liberal activist and insider, as well as would be Dominic LeBlanc leadership bid head, Reporter was the subject of "Draft Cyrus" rumours last Ottawa Centre federal nomination that ultimately came to nothing. Reporter still has plenty of connections and hasn't hid intentions to run for something someday, could this be his chance?
Janet Yale: Defeated Ottawa Centre federal nomination contestant, Yale originally considered running in Ottawa West-Nepean and challenging David Pratt, but settled on Ottawa Centre, losing to Scott Bradley. Yale ran a solid campaign for the nomination and I've seen her at a more than a couple Liberal events since her loss, and her technocratic background could be a good fit for the suburban riding, particularly if she can appeal to female voters.
Lee Farnworth: Another potential female candidate, Farnworth ran for the federal Liberals in 2006 but was defeated by John Baird. Farnworth served as a Nepean city councillor from 1994-2000, and has been active in the NGO sector. In addition to this, she has taught at the in-riding Algonquin College for nearly 2 decades.
Nour El Kadri: Sticking with the professor theme, Kadri is a eBusiness and Computer Science prof at the University of Ottawa. Kadri had organized a run for the federal Liberal nomination in Ottawa West-Nepean last time around before the appointment of David Pratt. Kadri apparently sold several hundred memberships, and if he still has his contact network, could potentially be a formidable candidate.
Unlike St. Paul's and Toronto Centre, the PC's stand a fighting chance in this riding, so candidate selection will be crucial.
Mike Patton: 2007 PC candidate, Patton ran into a spot of trouble over his resume during the campaign, when he was accused by Watson and former Nepean mayor Mary Pitt of embellishing his resume during his run, which may have contributed to the PC's losing votes in the riding. Prior to his run, he served as a spokesperson for Larry O'Brien as well as working for then federal PC leader Jean Charest and a parachute campaign running for the PC's in Labrador in 1997. Probably still has local connections, but the rumours of his resume fudging could be baggage, and after running socially liberal candidates in St. Paul's and Toronto Centre, will the PC base be happy with another Red Tory candidate?
Sean Casey: 2004 federal Conservative candidate. Casey nearly defeated incumbant Liberal Marlene Catterall when he ran. He is currently a partner at True North Public Affairs, a public policy firm, (which on a purely personal note, also employs former BPAPM student Mark Ruban as a consultant, go Kroeger Kids) and was a Tory insider and staffer prior to his run. The Ottawa Citizen endorsed him in his 2004 run and he was generally expected to win before the Tories suffered a late campaign drop in numbers. He was generally seen as being more of a Blue Tory, and might fit the Hudak mold, although a relatively low profile post-2004 might hurt.
Walter Robinson: Potentially the biggest "star" the Tories could nab, assuming he doesn't run for mayor himself, as some have speculated. Robinson ran as a star candidate for the federal Tories in 2004, unexpectedly losing to Marc Godbout in Ottawa-Orleans. A former director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Robinson also has big links to the O'Brien administration, serving as Chief of Staff to the mayor until stepping down in mid-2007, and is currently serving as a lobbyist.
Terry Kilrea: Before anyone says anything, yes, it is difficult to form a list of high-profile Tories who don't have connections to O'Brien in the Ottawa area. Former federal Tory nomination candidate, 2003 candidate for mayor, and 2006 city council candidate, Kilrea has obvious baggage but has name recognition.
With so many potential high-profile Ottawa Tories having baggage one way or the other towards O'Brien, I think the appointment of a candidate not listed above is certainly possible, or the PC's might hope that O'Brien's popularity is still decent enough in the suburban parts of the city that an association with him isn't a draw-back. McGuinty has a habit of calling by-elections quickly, so whenever Watson resigns from Queen's Park (I've only seen reports of him saying he will step down from cabinet, none explicitly saying that he will resign completely, but odds would be that pressure would be on him to step down sooner rather than later I think) the two major parties should be fast to get the campaign machines rolling.