Ward 11 Candidacy - The good, the bad, and the ugly
What a crazy ride.
1,731 people in Ward 11 at a time when 75% of people have no faith in politics and elected officials felt that I was worth showing up to the polls and colouring in a bubble beside my name.
That's quite an incredible feeling.
Since the election ended, I've gotten literally hundreds of messages of support and congratulations for the effort our team put forward.
I've got a lot of thoughts to share on the election experience, and am going to split them into three sections.
Our effort level and learning as we went
41 people hit every door in Ward 11 as first timers on the campaign trail. In July, I was terrible as a canvasser, with memories of door knocking for College Pro Painters in 2005 hitting me every time I hoped someone trusted my smile and looming shadow enough to open it. By the end, I was pretty darn good.
Our friend Michelle, a former Old South resident who moved 30 minutes out of town, helped door knock every day after work until dark for weeks. She had zero experience or political affiliation but believed enough that Ward 11 needed a change and a visionary and energetic leader to help that much. She was an excellent canvasser by the time it was over.
Going into the campaign, I was reluctant to overdo it with fundraising. I downloaded every single financial statement from 2018, to see how much everyone raised and where they spent it and decided I would be happy with $9,500 or so. We are in some crazy difficult times with 9% inflation, skyrocketing housing prices, and stagnant wages. I sent out one email and 40 texts/DMs and raised enough to campaign on. Awesome.
Reception to our efforts
I had 120 people tell me they wanted to help me campaign. 41 actually showed up. But we brought it every single day. And I love every single one of you for it.
Hearing from total strangers "I support you", "I love your ideas", "I'm voting for you/just voted for you" was heart warming and I felt like a true Ward 11 difference maker to the tips of my size 15s..
Many people online were very nice. Plenty of positive feedback kept us going when it was one day after another of work until 4:30, hit the streets and canvass until dark, and miss dinner. Over and over again.
If you made a donation, took a sign, liked a post, came to an event, answered the door, pushed me with questions or feedback, gave encouragement, or anything else that validated and energized our campaign, we did it because of you. Thank you.
I definitely opened some eyes and raised some eyebrows as a legitimate, well prepared, informed candidate.
I purposely left my official platform offline until the day after the debate, because I truly enjoy being the underdog and being taken lightly.
I had some nerve issues for my first ever debate, but performed well overall at both that and the Mountsfield PS meet the candidates event. I did my homework and it showed.
I did my research
I met with I believe twenty different experts on the topics that mattered to London the most and heard straight from those the most engaged and impacted. My campaign strategy and talking points came from real people most impacted by and engaged in the things we all talk about.
I'm my own worst critic, and picked up on a few things I would've done differently with a do-over. But I won't dwell on those, lessons learned for the future. No regrets.
I'm done with the NDP.
I've been supporting their candidates and initiatives and attending their events for a few years now. I've donated to almost every candidate they rolled out across the region over the past few years, and supported their efforts when I could.
About 10 days ago, I was told by a friend that Peggy Sattler, my own MPP, knocked on my friend's door with my sign on their lawn and tried to convince them to support my opponent instead.
9 days ago, I got a letter in the mail asking me to donate to Peggy Sattler.
I know they involved themselves in at least 10 races in London, but this one they could've sat out.
I had two people on my entire campaign team with previous campaign experience, and one ended up in the hospital for six weeks. The rest were average people like myself. It wasn't party vs. party. It was more like The Mighty Ducks, and I was Charlie and my campaign manager was Emilio Estevez (sorry J).
It's unfortunate, because I have a proven history as an organizer and a leader, and II learned how to be pretty useful on a political campaign. The NDP had more to gain by sitting out campaigning against me and utilizing me as an ally in the future than they risked by helping a campaign that already had current city councillors and previous MPP and MP candidates supporting it.
Many saw the writing on the wall going into the last provincial election, and the consensus seemed to be that the NDP performance would be directly related to their ability to create grassroots support and supporters.
This isn't how you generate that. I have a huge network and outreach in the realm of "engaged but not political". There was potential there for future good. Now there's not.
When I heard that my own elected official that I have supported was campaigning against me, I did some further research and found out that two important Londoners who I booked meetings with and got totally ghosted on are deeply affiliated with the NDP.
Very unfortunate but makes sense why two prominent Londoners would agree to meet with me and then completely stop responding to my attempts to connect.
I've never been a fan of party politics because of the heavy "us vs them" vibe.
Tribalism isn't how I operate. I'm the guy in the middle trying to bring people together.
I did think I was part of their "us", but they've proven that I'm not, and the "them" in this situation was actually me. That stings.
From my perspective, they would've had a friendly ear in council no matter who won.
But they chose what was best for them.
It was a pretty gross feeling, to have yet another layer of political experience and connections and leverage to battle back against on behalf of the thousands and thousands of Ward 11ers who don't feel heard or supported in our current political climate.
Why do so many people not show up? Because many of them feel like they already lost.
So when it comes to the NDP, I am officially out.
They chose not to sit this race out, and I choose to withdraw my support moving forward.
Learning experience. I was naive to think it would be different I guess.
London District Labour Council
As we know, this is my first time for political candidacy. I campaigned like I do everything, which is full speed.
As a result, I responded to every single survey, social media message, email, text, phone call, and other inquiry. I was fully honest and upfront, and shared what I knew and admitted to what I didn't.
I filled out the London District Labour Council survey, and spent a lot of time on it, knowing that they did represent a decent number of hard working middle class Londoners like myself, and expecting that every response and candidate would be evaluated on their own merits.
Between my campaign being endorsed by Steve Holland, the President of a large LDLC member union, my own past history as a UNIFOR member, my wife being a current LDLC union member, my role in employment services helping people enter and stay in the labour force, my membership in the Employment Sector Council and Job Developers Network, my support in hosting London and Area Works Job Fairs, my membership in the Southwest Chapter of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association, my past history in supporting local small business throughout the pandemic by organizing the buying and giving away of thousands of dollars in food during lockdowns, my track record in helping people buy groceries and pay rent when they were laid off and struggling, my campaign manager being a leader in organized labour locally for over 20 years, including president of more than one union in LDLC ,and a litany of other reasons, I expected a positive relationship with LDLC.
Instead, they endorsed my opponent.
Fine, their choice. Onward we go.
What do I discover next?
Their leadership in my Ward, knocking on doors, campaigning against me. I ran into them on Gerrard in Old South and was told "you don't have to come this way, we already have all the votes".
Cool. Not going to slow me down.
I was told by someone far more involved in local politics than I that my own track record was irrelevant, and LDLC support was hand in hand with NDP support. Had I known that ahead of time, I wouldn't have even bothered filling out the survey. I could have used that ninety minutes to knock on another 50 or so doors instead.
A lot of random difficult, distracting, and unfortunate things happened during the campaign.
A local contractor stole almost six weeks of take-home pay from me. I've been fighting daily since July to get it back and won't stop fighting until I do.
I slipped a disc in my neck maxing out on overhead press in June and pinched a nerve. It's still bothering me now but was completely debilitating for about a month. I had three weeks where I had an intense chest infection and could only drop flyers because I could barely breathe and had uncontrolled coughing during a time where even a wheeze turns people's blood cold.
My head canvasser was hospitalized for multiple weeks. One of my sign crew accidentally hit himself in the head with the post pounder and split his head open. My kid broke her elbow. My wife's vehicle is dying with 80,000 km on it and not even worth repairing. The list goes on. As my friend Tyler Todt says, you can be a victim or victor but you have to choose. I chose Victor and kept hammering.
I've played elite level sports in front of crowds of up to 17,000 hostile people. I've been in charge of the largest and busiest bar in London and faced the vitriol of NHL mega millionaires being told they need to wait in line like everyone else.
I've worked in inpatient psych and had patients who are being held involuntarily unload all of their frustrations on me.
It doesn't bother me. It won't phase me. It won't stop me to idly threaten me. Cool story, bro.
I got the typical "I'm going to ruin your life, choke on a bag of dicks" type emails that have came from online trolls since the beginning of time. Yawn. If you go out of your way to send it through my website form so that you really can't be tracked down, then you're officially intentionally a coward.
Where it went too far for me though was when it infiltrated my personal life and involved my family. People harassed my wife. Both behind her back by spreading nasty rumours about her at a social function in our neighbourhood and to her face.
People reached out to my boss to talk shit about me and threaten me to her. I'm an exemplary employee. I have been for years and I will be for years more.
She reached out to me to apologize for having to deal with this in the final week of my campaign.
People said gross things about me on a popular social media forum where you can post behind an anonymous name.
I didn't read any of it, but I heard about it. Not even worth my time to entertain.
People trolled me on twitter. People much much older than me. People who've never even met me. Mute is a great button.
Instinctually, I'll always fight back and stand up for myself and others, but I'm getting better at ignoring and not engaging. It's hard. At some point, we should be adults. People won't agree with you. But they are still allowed to exist in the same world that you do.
You can't both complain about a 25% voter turnout and also act like nine year olds because there's a strong and competitive candidate in the race that you don't have any influence or control over.
I go out of my way to help people whenever I can. Because it's the right thing to do. But I'm also from a bad part of town. And had a rough childhood. I don't scare, period. And the hate just makes me work harder. But it also made all of the people spreading it look like the ugly, sad small people they are.
Like Dwayne Wade famously said in his old commercials "Fall 7 times, stand up 8".
We ran a great campaign. I was in charge of my own destiny. I got tons of awesome support, and it fuelled my fire every single day. I know who the real ones in my life are, and I love every single one of them more than they will ever know.
I accomplished every goal I set other than winning. That's okay. I'm as competitive as they come, but I also played on the Western University Basketball teams that went 5-17 and 3-19 in OUA play in the period between trips to the National Championships. I can take a loss and keep moving. Shooting 90% is still a win overall in my book. I'm not finished yet. Way too many people in Ward 11 want different and better for me to dust my hands of them and walk away from what needs to be done. I don't need to be a councillor to continue to support the development of a better community.
It was an honour to campaign against Skylar Franke, and the support she garnered was impressive.
At one point I remarked to my campaign team that campaigning against her was like the movie 300. Everywhere we looked, there were signs and people knocking on doors for her. That's not a bad thing by any means, it just made for a long and fiery battle.
As a leader, I get the impression that Skylar will be a breath of fresh air compared to the last eight years.
She seems like she cares a lot, wants to listen, and will put in the work. That's going to be a great start towards a better Ward 11, and I'm looking forward to it.
As residents, we all need and deserve it.
Thank you, 2022 Municipal Election. You're an experience I'll never forget.