CITY hall is once again split down the ideological middle, with one wild card who could control Mayor Sam Katz's fate: rookie councillor Devi Sharma.
There are four new faces -- Ross Eadie in Mynarski, Sharma in Old Kildonan, Thomas Steen in Elmwood-East Kildonan and Paula Havixbeck in Charleswood-Tuxedo -- but the left-right split that has existed for most of Mayor Sam Katz's administration remains. In fact, it could tilt ever so slightly to the left, depending on Sharma.
Katz is left with five traditional allies who were re-elected Wednesday night and two new councillors who will likely side with him -- Steen and Havixbeck, both Tories.
On the left, six opposition councillors were re-elected and can add Eadie, a New Democrat, to their ranks.
It's Sharma, who replaced her former boss, right-leaning Liberal Mike O'Shaughnessy, whose tie vote could kill any of Katz's crime, transit or budget initiatives or rubber-stamp them. She says she's an independent, not aligned with any particular faction on council.
"I'm an independent thinker, an independent voice," she said moments after her victory. "I will be doing what's best for the residents of Old Kildonan, voting on integrity, not political loyalties."
Other new councillors said they won't be pigeonholed so soon, either.
Ex-Jet Thomas Steen said last night his focus as a rookie councillor is purely to look after the voters of Elmwood-East Kildonan. He said no one should mistake him for a full-blown supporter of Katz.
"That's what they say I am. That's not what I say I am," he said. "The No. 1 thing for me is Elmwood and East Kildonan. Its residents are key."
With voter turnout hovering at 47 per cent, an unusually intense campaign lured hundreds out to ward and mayoral debates and nudged thousands more to cast ballots early in advance polls.
It was clear fairly early Wednesday night that Katz had won his third term, but candidates in several council races, including Charleswood and Daniel McIntyre, were too close to call for some time. Former NDP-backed Harvey Smith won a close race in Daniel McIntyre after losing the party's official endorsement to contender Keith Bellamy. "It's always great to win," the 73-year-old said.
In Charleswood, Havixbeck's victory over Jarret Hannah was so narrow -- about 50 votes -- that a recount is inevitable.
Havixbeck's campaign was backed by Tory supporters including MP and junior cabinet minister Steven Fletcher and MLA Heather Stefanson.
All in all, it was a municipal campaign short on creative policy ideas, heavy on robo-calls and American-style attack ads, and dominated by public anger over new active transportation projects, the confidential Veolia deal and a spate of violent crime, especially in the campaign's waning days.
City council, now including four rookie politicians, will grapple with those problems plus taxes, rapid transit and the new football stadium deal in the coming months.
Katz said the 13th council since Unicity was born would be no different than the one he faced in 2004, when he was first elected.
"I'm looking forward to working with the new councillors," said Katz, who had not yet heard all the council-race results.
Council returns to work Nov. 2.
-- With files from Bruce Owen, Melissa Martin, Bartley Kives and Larry Kusch