November 23rd, 2017

Samraj brings fresh face to council


By Gillian Slade on October 17, 2017.

Newly elected councillor Kris Samraj speaks with one of his supporters at Station Coffee, where he held his campaign party on Monday night.--NEWS PHOTO EMMA BENNETT


gslade@medicinehatnews.com 
@MHNGillianSlade

The young man who spent three years preparing to run for Medicine Hat city council took the second highest number of votes on Monday.

Kris Samraj, 37, will be the new fresh face on council having achieved 7,619 votes, taking second place to Robert Dumanowski who led the way with 8,356 votes and will serve a sixth term as councillor.

Samraj seemed genuinely surprised by his success.

“People were really friendly and welcoming but it is hard to know how representative that is of the city,” said Samraj, who had attended council meetings for the last three years to gain an understanding of the issues.

There is a changing of the guard and a passing of the torch, said Medicine Hat College political commentator Terry Chapman, calling it “exciting.”

Samraj’s win consciously and unconsciously will raise the bar in council, said Chapman.

“Kris will embrace this challenge and do well,” she said.

Jim Groom, political science instructor at Medicine Hat College expressed surprise at just how big Samraj’s win was.

“This is not something I entered into lightly. It is a serious job that can have serious consequences. I tried to be mindful of that,” said Samraj, who works at the Medicine Hat Public Library.

Dumanowski is experienced at election campaigns but says he never makes any assumptions about the outcome.

“I fight hard. We work hard,” said Dumanowski who employed a “grassroots” approach. “I am truly humbled beyond words quite frankly at the support I have been given tonight.”

In 2013 Dumanowski received 10,797 votes when voter turnout was 40.21 per cent. This election voter turnout was estimated to be 34.61 per cent, with 17,308 votes cast, including 1,619 in the advance polls.

In third place among the council hopefuls was Phil Turnbull with 7,393 votes. He had previously served on council in 2010 for one term.

“I’m extremely honoured,” said Turnbull. “I’m going to work as hard as I can, based on my platform.”

Reducing the operating costs of the city is a key point in that platform to make up the deficit, he said.

“The mayor won’t call it a deficit but when you’re short a dividend of $23 million … I think the next four years are critical for our city,” said Turnbull.

Incumbent Julie Friesen took fourth place with 7,056 votes.

“I think there will be a good balance on council,” said Friesen, who said she believes the public is looking for fresh new ideas.

Darren Hirsch, who was an alderman from 2004-2007, received 6,957 votes and won a return to council.

“I’m feeling pretty grateful,” said Hirsch, who said he feels the public is looking for fiscal accountability.

Underlying issues that emerged as themes throughout the campaign include public transit, said Hirsch.

“I always contended that that was an underlying issue of a larger problem in terms of decisiveness on this council,” said Hirsch, adding the decision to return to the old transit system after a public outcry was “hasty.”

Jim Turner has been elected to council for a second term, having garnered 6,393 votes. He feels public transit was one of the big issues.

“Even people who don’t use transit, they had family members or friends who were affected by it. It was probably more of an effect than most people realize,” said Turner. “I certainly hope we get this back running as soon as we can.”

Brian Varga has also been re-elected to serve a second term, with 6,115 votes. He said he believes the issues this election were public transit and the arena.

When all the votes were counted, Jamie McIntosh was also re-elected for a second term with 6,083 votes.

That Bill Cocks and Les Pearson were not re-elected was a surprise to many, but that there are new people on council comes as no surprise to McIntosh.

“It just seems to be the political will at this point,” said McIntosh, who said he believes public transit was an issue throughout the campaign. “Change seems to be in the air all the time and the electorate decides what happens. I very easily this night could have been on the outside looking in. I guess I am thankful that I wasn’t.”

Look for poll-by-poll results in the coming days in the Medicine Hat News and online at http://www.medicinehatnews.com.


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