The week after Labour Day means three things in Winnipeg: unhappy schoolchildren, even unhappier Bombers fans and the realization the municipal election campaign has entered the so-called serious phase.
If you've managed to avoid the election so far, well, too bad for you. Here's what's happening on the mayoral-race front and in the 15 council wards:
The mayoral home stretch
While the race to replace Sam Katz is a crowded, nine-candidate affair, two polls last week confirmed what observers suspected: Judy Wasylycia-Leis is in front.
As of late August, the former NDP MP and MLA counted on the support of roughly four in 10 decided voters. Tory-affiliated lawyers Gord Steeves and Brian Bowman ranked No. 2 and 3, with each getting about one-fifth of the vote. The Liberal-progressive Robert-Falcon Ouellette is in fourth place with 10 per cent. Tory-affiliated Paula Havixbeck is in fifth place. None of the other candidates had more than three per cent.
During the remaining seven weeks, watch for Steeves and Bowman to attempt a breakthrough at each other's expense while Wasylycia-Leis will be more concerned with maintaining her base.
Life after Swandel
When Coun. Justin Swandel decided nine years representing St. Norbert was enough, the departing deputy mayor created an electoral vacuum pitting former Winnipeg Trails Association director Janice Lukes -- a Swandel executive assistant -- against Sachit Mehra, a Liberal-connected restaurateur.
Also running is Joe Chan, the controversial Harvey Smith associate who launched an unsuccessful conflict-of-interest case against Mayor Sam Katz.
The aims in St. James
True to his word, Coun. Scott Fielding served only two terms in St. James-Brooklands, creating a wide-open race in one of Winnipeg's smallest wards. Pastor Scott Gillingham, school trustee Bryan Metcalfe and the labour-endorsed Stefan Jonasson are vying to replace Fielding, along with Fred Morris, a community activist making his third play for the ward.
Who would in Charleswood?
Coun. Paula Havixbeck's decision to run for mayor after one term in Charleswood-Tuxedo opened a vacancy in a ward that traditionally elects a conservative. At least two of the people vying to replace her have Tory ties: Marty Morantz and Luc Lewandoski.
Lawyer and businessman Morantz ran for the Manitoba Conservatives in 2011 and has Michael Kowalson, the 2010 River Heights-Fort Garry candidate, as a campaign manager. Lewandoski, executive assistant to North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty, has worked on a number of Tory campaigns. Also running are Kevin Nichols, Nadine Stiller and Evan Duncan.
St. Boniface? C'est bon
The fourth and final council veteran to decide not to run again is Dan Vandal, who represented St. Boniface from 1995 to 2004 and again from 2006 until this year. A former Vandal executive assistant, Matt Allard, is the only candidate who's registered to replace him.
If no one signs up in the next two weeks to run against Allard, the CEO of the Francophone Chamber of Commerce, then St. Boniface will take the unusual step of acclaiming a rookie.
No foe for Orlikow?
Along with Allard, River Heights-Fort Garry Coun. John Orlikow, first elected in 2009, currently stands unopposed. Given the penchant for River Heights voters to be politically engaged, this is a bizarre circumstance -- and unlikely to last until the ballot is set on Sept. 17.
Daniel Mac rematch
In what might be a Winnipeg first, four out of five candidates who vied for the Daniel McIntyre seat in the last election are at it again. Cindy Gilroy, Keith Bellamy and John Cardoso are all back for a rematch with Harvey Smith, council's oldest and longest-serving member.
Two out of three have NDP ties. Gilroy, a former Liberal, is now assistant to provincial NDP cabinet minister Kevin Chief. Bellamy is a former assistant to NDP MP Pat Martin.
The only 2010 candidate who isn't back is Lito Taruc, who lived outside the ward.
Former centre faces challenge from left
One-term Elmwood-East Kildonan Coun. Thomas Steen, the Tory-affiliated former Winnipeg Jet, faces a challenge from the labour-endorsed Jason Schreyer, son of former provincial NDP leader and governor general of Canada Ed Schreyer. Paul Quaye is also in the race.
Steen faces not just an electoral challenge, but charges for assault and uttering threats stemming from an alleged incident at a Garden City restaurant in May.
And in the other eight wards...
While no council incumbent is safe, being elected once in Winnipeg tends to predict a second victory. That's why council incumbents could cruise past their challengers, even with the prevailing scandal-fatigued, anti-establishment mood in Winnipeg.
In Transcona, unpredictable finance chairman Russ Wyatt (first elected in 2002) faces the labour-endorsed Ray Ulasy. In St. Vital, protection chairman Brian Mayes is in a rematch with 2011 byelection contender Steven Hennessy as well as Glenn Churchill. In Old Kildonan, council speaker Devi Sharma (elected in 2010) is up against school trustee Suzanne Hrynyk and Donovan Martin.
In Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry, Jenny Gerbasi (first elected in 1998) faces familiar foe Shane Nestruck and newcomer Norman Miller. In North Kildonan, Jeff Browaty (first elected in 2006) is up against the labour-endorsed Evan Comstock and Andrew Podolecky.
One-term Mynarski Coun. Ross Eadie is in a rematch with both Trevor Mueller and Greg Littlejohn, plus newcomer Dave Capar. Mike Pagtakhan (first elected in 2002) has three Point Douglas challengers: Anne Thompson, Dale White and Anthony Ramos.
Finally, St. Charles Coun. Grant Nordman (first elected in 2006) wins the award for most challengers, with five. The field includes 2010 contender Shawn Dobson, bus driver Don Woodstock, Eric Holland, Dwight Hildebrandt and Geoff Borden.