Paul Jordan of The Forks and former St. Vital councillor Gord Steeves are thinking about running for mayor, setting the stage for what could be the most vigorous race to lead Winnipeg in a decade.
Jordan, chief operating officer for The Forks Renewal Corporation, confirmed this week a broad spectrum of Winnipeggers have urged him to throw his name into the ring and he is considering the idea.
"People are talking to me, so I'm thinking about it," said Jordan, who is best-known to Winnipeggers as the face of The Forks and a driving force behind its winter River Trail. He has not held public office before.
'Winnipeg seems to be two cities, almost. I see people who are doing very, very well and I love that. But I also see large parts of the city going in the exact opposite direction' -- Gord Steeves
Steeves, who served as St. Vital councillor from 2000 to 2011, also confirmed this week he is "strongly considering" a mayoral run, even though he says he loves his current work as a lawyer for the firm D'Arcy & Deacon.
"Winnipeg seems to be two cities, almost. I see people who are doing very, very well and I love that. But I also see large parts of the city going in the exact opposite direction," Steeves said.
"I don't blame anyone in particular for that, but I don't know that's on its way to resolution right now. And as a person who lives in this city, cares about it and wants it to do well, I have to try to help."
A federal Liberal for much of his career, Steeves ran as a Progressive Conservative candidate in the 2011 provincial election but lost to NDP incumbent Theresa Oswald. At city council, he sat on executive policy committee for seven years, serving alongside former mayor Glen Murray and current Mayor Sam Katz.
Winnipeg's next civic election is 17 months away, in October 2014. Katz, now serving his third term, has suggested he may seek a fourth term next fall.
"Can you think of any reason why I should not run?" he asked reporters in March. A Probe Research poll conducted in December suggested half of Winnipeggers did not want Katz to seek another term in office, while 40 per cent of respondents said the mayor has done a poor job of separating his private business affairs from his public duties.
Katz was first elected in a 2004 mayoral byelection that saw him defeat four other high-profile candidates. He breezed to re-election against a weak field in 2006 before winning a largely two-way battle in 2010 against former NDP MP and MLA Judy Wasylyica-Leis, whose campaign was assisted by the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
Wasylycia-Leis is considering another run in 2014, as well. "I haven't changed my position since the last election," she said this week at city hall, where she observed council defeat a proposed lease of four city-owned golf courses.
During that debate, Charleswood-Tuxedo Coun. Paula Havixbeck questioned Katz's leadership and was chided by Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt for starting her mayoralty campaign early.
Havixbeck confirmed afterward she is, in fact, mulling a mayoral run. "I'm not ruling it out. You'll have to wait and see," she said.
Other sitting city councillors who have expressed interest in mayoral runs in the past include St. James-Brooklands Coun. Scott Fielding, St. Norbert Coun. Justin Swandel and Wyatt, the city's deputy mayor. Wyatt has not made any recent statements about his interest in the job, while Swandel has only said he is keeping his options open.
Fielding, who supports the idea of term limits and is expected to vacate his council seat next year, has expressed an interest in running for mayor if Katz does not seek a fourth term.
Potential mayoral candidates have plenty of time to decide before throwing their name into the ring. The registration period, which allows candidates to begin raising funds, does not begin until May 2014, while nominations do not open until next summer.
But the actual planning that goes into a mayoral race -- putting a campaign manager and staff in place, recruiting volunteers and amassing a database of supporters -- can begin months or even years in advance.
Last-minute campaigns generally do not prove successful. A notable exception is the 2004 effort mounted by Katz, who jumped into the crowded race to succeed Murray shortly before the nomination deadline.