August 14th, 2018

Mayoral candidates fought the fight they wanted

By Collin Gallant on October 18, 2017.

Two men who challenged Ted Clugston say they’re pleased with the race they ran.

Clugston secured a second term as mayor on Monday, winning more than half the vote total.

His 9,307 votes were more than double John Hamill’s total of 4,119, While Scott Raible placed third with 2,516, and Thomas Fougere trailed in fourth with 497.

Hamill and Raible were not available before Monday’s press deadline.

Hamill told the News Tuesday he accepts the results but the low voter turnout and lack of substance in the race was uninspiring.

“Maybe I didn’t run a good enough race or put enough money into it, but then I self-funded my campaign,” said Hamill, who disagreed with Clugston’s opinion that the majority of voters saw few major issues with his handling of council’s business.

“Transit was a big issue but there were many we didn’t get to,” said Hamill, city arena and pool closures as well as increasing taxes and fees.

“You don’t encourage business and economic development by raising taxes … I do believe we’ve taken a step back.”

It was Hamill’s second attempt at securing the mayor’s chair.

In 1998 he finished a close second to Ted Grimm, who held the top position for more than two decades.

Hamill, who won’t confirm his age, but is assumed to be about 75, also said age shouldn’t have been a factor, but he’s likely done for good with politics.

“It was on my bucket list,” said Hamill. “I’ve satisfied my yearning. Put it this way: I’m very good at golf and by the end of next season I’ll be excellent.”

As the results came in on Monday, Clugston said they were endorsement of his leadership on a variety of issues. In his mind they included budgeting, city construction program and reserve policy, and not just a reaction to recent decisions, such as a transit overhaul.

“In politics you’re taking a beating all the time and you’re not sure how you’re doing all the time,” said Clugston.

“For four years, there have been so many things… (Transit) is a valid issue, but it obviously wasn’t the biggest issue for a lot of people.”

Raible entered the race on Labour Day weekend, just as radical transit changes were being implemented and focused his campaign as a protest against higher taxes and fees called for in a 10-year budget plan.

Raible offered his congratulations in person on Monday night.

“Going against and incumbent (Clugston) and Hamill, who had been on council for so many years, I thought we did OK,” Raible, a local teacher, said Tuesday.

“I ran a campaign that was true to my values, and brought up issue of a disconnect between city hall and the people of Medicine Hat — talking about transparency … how the impact of raising taxes and fees and the effect it has on people.”

Raible doesn’t define his campaign as strictly focused on social values — he called for new incentive packages to attract business growth — and said he’s had positive reaction from many corners.

“When you run, you run to make a difference. I’m happy with the result.”

Raible said he plans to be involved in some way in municipal affairs but hasn’t yet decided how to best accomplish that.

Incumbents tough to beat, analysts say

Political analysts agreed that — at least in the mayor’s race — transit didn’t seem to have enough traction to unseat Clugston, and challengers had a tough time scoring points on other fronts.

“It seemed like transit was one that had legs but it fizzled,” said Jim Groom, who teaches political science at Medicine Hat College and commented on the local election for the News.

“It was kind of a blah campaign,” said Terry Chapman, a former poli-sci instructor, who is now the dean of arts at the college.

Groom also said incumbents start with the advantage of “institutional knowledge.”

Clugston often cites that he hasn’t missed a city meeting in 10 years, and often brags that few know more about the ins and outs at city hall.

“He’s got a depth of knowledge,” on issues, background and reasoning, Groom said of Clugston’s ability at recent debates to answer or at least diffuse criticism from challengers.

“They can attack at a very high level but it’s hard to get into specifics,” said Chapman. “They can identify problems, but didn’t present solutions.”

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