John Orlikow boasted in January that he would easily be elected Winnipeg’s next mayor.
But this afternoon, the councillor from River Heights said he wouldn’t run after all.
"Running for mayor is not the right decision for me at this time," Orlikow said in a statement on his web page, citing his obligation to his family as outweighing his earlier confidence.
Orlikow is known as a progressive on council and his withdrawal clears the way for the only other centre-left contender, Judy Wasylycia-Leis.
"If Orlikow had come on, he would have taken votes from Wasylycia-Leis," Scott MacKay, president of Probe Research, said.
The woman who lost to Sam Katz in 2010 has been publicly toying with the idea of running again.
Orlikow’s announcement in January that he would run threatened to siphon support from Wasylycia-Leis, who appears certain to outdraw a crowded field of lesser centre-right opponents.
But it appears that Orlikow’s support wasn’t as strong as he claimed.
Speculation in the city’s left-wing circles is that the Winnipeg Labour Council will endorse Wasylycia-Leis for mayor. With that endorsement looming, the rumor this week was Orlikow had made up his mind to withdraw.
The Free Press asked Orlikow on April 8 if he had changed his mind about running and he replied that he had not.
Labour council president Dave Sauer said recently that no decision has been made on which individual to endorse for mayor.
MacKay said it would be a good strategy for the labour council to ensure Wasylycia-Leis was the only left-of-centre candidate in the Oct. 22 election.
"I can see how if you really wanted to assure that there would be a victory on the left, you’d want to minimize the candidates there," MacKay said.
Technically, there are no candidates yet for mayor. Individuals cannot legally declare until May 1 but that hasn’t stopped some, including Orlikow, who said they will run.
Katz, who is polling dismally, has not said whether he will run again.
A Free Press/Probe poll found Katz had the support of 22 per cent of respondents — a significant decrease from the 55 per cent support he attracted in 2010 when he defeated Wasylycia-Leis, in what was essentially a two-person contest.
Two polls have placed Wasylycia-Leis as clearly the favourite in a field with several centre-right opponents: The December Free Press/Probe poll found she had 45 per cent support; and a February poll by Insightrix Research had her with 42 per cent.
Former councillor Gord Steeves and funeral home operator Mike Vogiatzakis are the others contenders who said they intend to run for mayor.
Steeves drew 25 per cent in the Free Press/Probe poll; and 17 per cent in the Insightrix poll.
Privacy lawyer Brian Bowman (11% FP/Probe; 6% Insightrix) and Coun. Paula Havixbeck (11% FP/Probe; 9% Insightrix) said they are considering. Coun. Scott Fielding (8% FP/Probe; 6% Insightrix), who has been releasing campaign-like policy statements for several weeks, said he’s also considering.
Orlikow said he will run for re-election in the River Heights ward, which he first won in a March 17, 2009 by-election.
Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.
Updated on Friday, April 11, 2014 at 4:57 PM CDT: Writethru.