They ran, they lost; will they be back?


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I first met Sherri Rollins 12 years ago, when she came to my door as a school board candidate.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/10/2014 (3076 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

I first met Sherri Rollins 12 years ago, when she came to my door as a school board candidate.

As I recall, she was somewhat surprised to encounter a voter who followed Winnipeg School Division issues so closely.

We were remembering that Wednesday when I had to call Rollins very late at night to avoid an error in Thursday’s paper comparable with having declared Thomas E. Dewey the president-elect.

If I ever get to the point, I’ll smoothly segue into how rare it seems to be for unsuccessful school board candidates to run a second time.

Rollins was elected in the far south end Ward 1 seat in the WSD. She told me Wednesday night that when she’d run before, it was pretty much at the last minute and without a lot of organization, as a reaction to school trustee Betty Granger. (Granger resigned after making national headlines for her remarks about immigration.)

Moving on to why I’d called her: I’d tweeted and put a story on our website Wednesday evening stating all the aboriginal school board candidates around the city had lost. Whereupon, a reader named Esther hit the ‘report an error’ button on our website and said Sherri Rollins is aboriginal.

This made my tweets and webbie problematic, not to mention my story for the dead-trees edition yet unpublished.

I went back through Rollins’ website and the biography she’d supplied to the city elections website, and found nary a syllable mentioning her aboriginal background. Back to Esther I went, and she pointed me to a lengthy online questionnaire in which Rollins mentioned she is aboriginal.

That’s why I called Rollins late Wednesday night. She told me she’d discussed her heritage at the door, and I would have been aware had I joined LinkedIn and read her profile. She also said she’d been hoping to work alongside fellow aboriginal candidate Kevin Settee, who lost a close race to Kevin Freedman in Ward 5. (Note to myself for the next election: Do not rely solely on candidates’ websites and autobiographies for all pertinent, positive information.)

Freedman was one of the handful of previously unsuccessful candidates who tried again.

See how effortlessly I segued?

The Twitterverse has been full of congrats for young, first-time candidates who lost, with Louis Riel School Division trustee Chris Sigurdson pointing out he lost three times before he was elected.

I went back to the 2010 school board elections and, aside from Freedman, found only four unsuccessful candidates who tried again this time around — Chris Wilson, Robert Page, Roland Headley and Dennis Ruggles. None made it in this election, either.

I think Rockford McKay was the only defeated incumbent in 2010 who tried a comeback in this election, and he fell short.

So back I went to three recent byelections, the ones that saw Colleen Mayer, Mark Wasyliw and Rita Hildahl win seats. Hildahl had been a school trustee before but had retired.

There’s a whole separate category of people who left of their own accord and later returned, including Rod Giesbrecht, Scott Johnston and Brian Olynik. But back to the main thread.

Those three byelections brought out large fields, and those runners-up all built up some degree of profile. Only one of them ran in a subsequent general election, perennial candidate Shane Nestruck, who ran against Jenny Gerbasi for city council last week.

Among candidates contesting those byelections were Colleen McFadden, Ben Shedden, Jeremiah Kopp, Edna Sears, Gary Brownstone, Colin Fast, Barbara Coombs and a bunch of others who were all one-and-out.

There was a guy who ran in a WSD byelection and got hammered, receiving only 3.83 per cent of the vote, but impressed me enormously. Carlos James was an incredibly bright aboriginal candidate from a single-parent home, articulate, with analytical thinking about education issues, and he knew more about computers than most of Silicon Valley. I stumbled across him one time while tracking what had happened to a deposed private-school principal here, and learned he had followed her to an elite private school in Toronto.

From the 2010 school board elections, one of the most impressive candidates I recall was a guy named Gurpreet Brar, but there was no trace of him this election.

I’ve yet to find an academic who has done any research on school board elections, but I’d like to hear from candidates. If you’re running again in 2018, why? What have you learned; what would you do differently? If you’ll never run again, why?

From what I’m seeing on Twitter — and since it’s on the Internet, it must be true — first-time candidates Candace Maxymowich, Tanjit Nagra, Carlene Rummery and Lisa Webinger could be on ballots again in 2018.


Nick Martin blogs on the Winnipeg Free Press website.

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