Though loath to label himself a politician, Mayor Wayne Baldwin began the recent byelection week in White Rock considered by many in his city to be a consummate statesman.
By election day Nov. 3, however, a lesser title seemed firmly affixed.
His indiscretion? Endorsing one of nine candidates running for a single spot on city council – effectively blindsiding the remaining eight and surprising his fellow elected officials who’d thought they had an understanding none on council would intervene.
Certainly it’s not unheard of for politicians to endorse one another. And Baldwin’s decision to email 40 or 50 (by his count) friends and supporters three days before the final vote to encourage them to vote for one particular candidate hardly smacks of political hardball.
However, reaction from other candidates was swift. Some called it “dirty politics,” others questioned the timing of the move and whether it was ethical. One recipient of his email described it simply as “wrong.”
Baldwin himself defended the move as one intended to stave off the multitude of questions he’d been fielding around who he planned to vote for. He also stated that he had hoped the declaration would encourage people to do their civic duty and actually fill out a ballot in an otherwise sleepy campaign.
If it did, it surely backfired for his candidate of choice, businessman Grant O’Kane, who finished fifth with just 165 votes, compared to victor Bill Lawrence’s 620.
Certainly, Baldwin was well within his rights to make his voice known, both as an individual and as elected leader of his small town.
However, a more seasoned politician might have predicted how it would turn out, regardless of whether his emails had the desired impact.
After all, eight of nine candidates and their families and their other supporters – statistically, about 89 per cent of voters – would surely disagree most vehemently with his selection.
Experiencing his first notable misstep since becoming mayor one year ago, it will be most interesting to see if Baldwin sees his intervention as one that does not bear repeating.