With 62.5% turnover on Hamilton city council, IELECT celebrates ‘big changes’

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Published October 25, 2022 at 11:20 am

Environmentalist Alex Wilson got the most votes of any councillor-elect in Hamilton.

A Hamilton grassroots movement that launched a year and a half ago to push for new local elected leadership is basking in “big changes.”

The registered charity ILECT was introduced in 2020, with intent to mobilize residents. At that time, fairly or not, it labelled 12 represenatives of the 16-member city council who had three terms or more as part of an “Old Guard.” Now only two — Ward 6 Coun. Tom Jackson and Ward 9 Coun. Brad Clark — will be part of the council that will be helmed by mayor-elect Andrea Horwath after votes were tallied, if not certified, shortly after 12 a.m. today. (The City of Hamilton has yet to release results from its mail ballot count.)

“Thank you Hamilton for voting for change,” IELECT said in a social media post on Tuesday morning.

Seven of the 10, including former mayor Fred Eisenberger, opted against standing for re-election. Three incoming rookie councillors-elect — Cameron Kroetsch in Ward 2, Jeff Beattie in Ward 10 and Alex Wilson in Ward 13 — unseated councillors with a combined 43 years’ experience. Wilson, the 25-year-old cofounder of the Action 13 climate action organization, was the only council candidate to top 7,000 votes. Wilson unseated three-term Dundas representative Arlene VanderBeek in a head-to-head race after joining in mid-August.

Coincidentally, Horwath and the 14 councillors who are not named Tom Jackson have a combined 43 years’ experience. Instead of 12 labelled as “Old Guard,” there will be 12 councillors who are rookies or second-termers. Only Jackson, Clark, Horwath and Ward 15 councillor-elect Ted McMeekin have had multiple terms. (McMeekin’s were in Ward 7 decades ago.)

That push for change, and a dissatisfaction with the results voters get from the city, did not lead to increased turnout. But it might have been a case of having fewer, but differently motivated voters across the city.

Overall, voter turnout was guesstimated to be 35 per cent, down from 38.7 in 2018. But Kroetsch, Beattie and Wilson outpolled the incumbents they were up against by double digits. T

In Ward 2, Kroetsch ended up with close to a 16½-point margin against three-terms councillor Jason Farr, winning by 1,200 votes. In comparing their vote totals from four years ago, Kroetsch gained about 1,600 supporters, while Farr dropped by about 1,100.

Ward 10 had a slightly lower official turnout than it did in ’18, even though it is growing in population. Beattie picked up at least 1,544 more votes than he did when he challenged Maria Pearson in ’18. Louie Milojevic, also a second-time challenger, improved his vote count by nearly 450.

Pearson dropped by 988 votes, and her 28.11 vote share was 11½ points adrift of Beattie.

Meantime, as perhaps tipped by Alex Wilson’s tally, Ward 13 did have 700 more votes cast than it did last time. VanderBeek, with one challenger instead of six as she had four years prior, got about 1,100 more votes. But the percentage-points margin is, unofficially, at 15.88.

Ward 1 Coun. Maureen Wilson, Jackson, Ward 7 Coun. Esther Pauls and Ward 8 Coun. John-Paul Danko all received at least 5,200 votes. All but Jackson were running for a second term.

Pauls was challenged head-to-head by Scott Duvall, who actually has more years of council experience, having been elected thrice in Ward 7 before making the move to federal politics. The oft-outspoken but undeniably hustling Pauls, though, earned more than 6,000 votes, which works out to an unofficial 1.82-point margin. She doubled her total from 2018, when her 25 per cent vote share won the day (and the next four years) in a seven-person race.

The last time around, Hamilton did not have a single council race where someone with no previous experience defeated an incumbent. Clark outpolled one-term councillor Doug Conley to get back in the saddle in Ward 9, but Conley had been elected in ’14 when Clark made a bid for mayor.

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