Lucky 13? Klein shakes up Winnipeg mayoral race

Kevin Klein’s decision to enter Winnipeg’s increasingly crowded mayoral race could deliver a jolt to the municipal election campaign, and give front-runner Glen Murray a run for his money.

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Kevin Klein’s decision to enter Winnipeg’s increasingly crowded mayoral race could deliver a jolt to the municipal election campaign, and give front-runner Glen Murray a run for his money.

Klein, the councillor for Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood, is the 13th candidate vying to replace Brian Bowman, who isn’t seeking a third term, in the Oct. 26 vote.

Putting an end to speculation he would run for mayor, the former business executive said he will set out his priorities when he holds a campaign launch at Assiniboine Park on Wednesday.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Kevin Klein, the councillor for Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood, is the 13th candidate vying to replace Brian Bowman.

“I want to make Winnipeg the leader in Western Canada, not a follower, and also bring that accountability to city hall that I know so many Winnipeggers want,” he said Friday. “The No. 1 reason (I’m running for mayor) is I love this city. It has so much potential.”

Klein, who planned to register as early as Friday, is joining the race nearly three months after the campaign officially began May 1.

He said he waited, in part, because he wanted to complete some of his work in his ward and get the “right team” in place.

He doesn’t believe the wait has put him at a disadvantage.

“I think this is the perfect time to enter because we’ve done our homework,” said Klein, a former Winnipeg Sun publisher and ex-divisional president with MTS.

Klein, a former Winnipeg Police Board chair, previously worked for now-disgraced fashion mogul Peter Nygard for brief periods in 2012 and 2014. Nygard has been charged in Canada and the U.S. with sex assaults against several women.

Klein has distanced himself by saying he was not part of Nygard’s personal life and he did not see anything inappropriate or illegal.

Klein announced his intention to run for mayor after a Probe Research online poll, published Thursday, suggested former mayor Murray is the heavy favourite to win.

Among decided respondents, 44 per cent said they support Murray, who had the city’s top job from 1998 to 2004.

The survey of 622 Winnipeg adults suggests he has a huge lead over Coun. Scott Gillingham (St. James), who was backed by 16 per cent of those polled.

“I think this is the perfect time to enter because we’ve done our homework.” – Kevin Klein

Former Winnipeg Centre Liberal MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette had 13 per cent. Jenny Motkaluk, who finished second in the 2018 election, had eight per cent.

The Probe poll found support for the other candidates — Shaun Loney, Rana Bokhari, Rick Shone, Don Woodstock, Jessica Peebles, Desmond Thomas, Chris Clacio and Idris Ademuyiwa Adelakun — is in the single digits.

Shone on Friday announced his plan to overhaul city business, including the creation of a business ombudsman to cut red tape and speed up the permitting process.

Of all those surveyed by Probe, 67 per cent said they will definitely or possibly vote for Murray. Gillingham’s total was 51 per cent, followed closely by Ouellette at 50 per cent.

One in three (36 per cent) said they would consider voting for Klein if he entered the race, while 37 per cent said they would not vote for him.

As for name recognition, 28 per cent said they had never heard of him, higher than the totals for Murray (10 per cent), Ouellette (12 per cent) and Gillingham (24 per cent), and equal to Motkaluk’s.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES “I respect them for putting their names forward. I’m going to focus on the people of Winnipeg, not on other candidates,” said Kevin Klein.

Klein, who made his decision to run for mayor before the poll was released, said the support in his favour is “really humbling and energizing.”

If he’s concerned about the high support for Murray, he didn’t let on.

“I’m not taking on anybody, and that’s how I look at it. I wish (the other candidates) all the best,” said Klein. “I respect them for putting their names forward. I’m going to focus on the people of Winnipeg, not on other candidates.”

In an interview Thursday, Murray declined to comment on how a Klein candidacy could affect the race.

He called it a “pretty hypothetical question,” and to ask him again if Klein declared his candidacy.

The Free Press attempted to do that Friday, but Murray did not comment. A campaign spokeswoman said his schedule was “jammed,” later adding he was preparing to head out of town with friends for the long weekend.

“Come election day, voters will see they have a clear choice between my plans to tackle the problems facing our city with real, credible and doable solutions, and other candidates who make promises they can’t keep or won’t say how they will pay for.” – Scott Gillingham

In a statement sent via his spokesman, Gillingham said he’s not concerned about “another candidate.”

“Come election day, voters will see they have a clear choice between my plans to tackle the problems facing our city with real, credible and doable solutions, and other candidates who make promises they can’t keep or won’t say how they will pay for,” he said.

Klein is viewed as being on the right, but political watchers said it’s hard to say if his entry will hurt conservatives such as Gillingham.

“It’s really hard to sort these things out in a mayoral race when there aren’t party labels and when it’s this early,” said Royce Koop, a political studies professor at the University of Manitoba. “These are individuals running for office. (Klein) is a potentially important candidate, and I think he will have a role in the race.”

Vote-splitting on the right could benefit benefit Murray, a former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister and Green Party of Canada leadership hopeful.

Mary Agnes Welch, a principal with Probe Research, said the poll shows the right is “really fractured” and not united behind a single candidate.

“There are quite a number of folks on the right side of the spectrum. They are splitting that vote.” – Mary Agnes Welch

“There are quite a number of folks on the right side of the spectrum. They are splitting that vote,” she said.

Observers said Klein’s name recognition, flamboyance and populist approach are among the factors that could determine his influence on the campaign.

“He’ll be an interesting figure in the race. His presence will stir up more excitement, I think,” said Paul Thomas, a professor emeritus of political studies at the U of M. “Populism, efficiency and anti-politics would be the trio of themes he seems to be setting at this early stage.”

Koop and Thomas do not believe the timing of Klein’s entry will be a hindrance because many potential voters won’t pay attention till after summer.

“The race is just beginning to shape up. I don’t think he’s lost ground,” said Thomas.

Koop expects the race to tighten, noting Murray’s strong showing in the poll is a sign of name recognition.

“I think this will end up being a race,” he said. “This isn’t going to be a coronation.”

As for who could replace Klein in Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood, it is the only council seat with no registered candidates.

chris.kitching@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @chriskitching

Chris Kitching
Reporter

As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.

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Updated on Friday, July 29, 2022 12:31 PM CDT: Fixes headline

Updated on Friday, July 29, 2022 12:31 PM CDT: Fixes typo in hed

Updated on Friday, July 29, 2022 12:31 PM CDT: Fixes typo in hed

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