‘It’s time for a change,’ Clark says after dramatic election win
Posted on October 27, 2016 in In the Media
Charlie Clark ended the reign of Saskatoon’s longest-serving mayor.
The 10-year Saskatoon city council veteran secured a narrow victory over Don Atchison in Wednesday’s historic, dramatic election.
Clark was not declared the winner until after 10:30 p.m. after the tabulation of votes was delayed by lineups of people waiting to vote.
The 42-year-old captured 41 per cent of the votes with 32,565 votes. Atchison finished second with 37 per cent and 29,518 votes. Political newcomer Kelley Moore finished well back with 22 per cent and 17,381 votes. Devon Hein captured 548 votes for one per cent.
“I am ready to move this city into the next chapter of its life,” Clark told reporters at city hall shortly after the historic win. “It’s a time of change.”
Clark supporters gathered at Amigos Cantina and waited well into the evening for the results to come pouring in. Once they did, the anxiety changed to elation as chants of “Charlie, Charlie” rang out.
“I am very excited to roll up my sleeves,” Clark said.
He becomes the youngest mayor elected in Saskatoon since Sid Buckwold was elected in 1958 at the age of 41.
Atchison, who was already the city’s longest-serving mayor at 13 years, was first elected to council to represent Ward 10 in 1994. He won a four-way race to claim the mayor’s chair in 2003 with 30.1 per cent of the vote.
Atchison waited with supporters at his downtown campaign headquarters while the results came in. The crowd thinned out as the night progressed and it did not look like an Atchison comeback was in the cards.
Atchison thanked his wife, parents and volunteers at his campaign headquarters before heading to city hall to concede defeat to Clark.
When asked about his legacy, he said “history will determine that, not me.” He congratulated Clark but did not offer any advice.
Clark was first elected to represent Ward 6 in 2006. He was acclaimed in 2009 and won in 2012 with 66.3 per cent of the vote. His entry into the mayor’s race was widely expected before he announced his candidacy in May.
Clark’s campaign seemed to struggle to attract support and position him as the candidate of change after Moore entered the race. She ran a campaign based on criticism of the records of Atchison and Clark on city council.
Clark dropped to third in the polls and seemed to have relinquished the mantle of Atchison’s main challenger to Moore.
Clark’s campaign focused heavily on endorsements by community leaders and included an election day video of support by Hollywood comic actor Zach Galifianakis, who is married to Clark’s cousin.
He also relied heavily on hundreds of volunteers to help get the vote out. He won despite polls that seemed to show his support lay mainly in the 35-and-under demographic — notoriously unreliable voters.
His campaign themes included running a more cost-effective city by focusing on more balanced growth in Saskatoon. He came out strongly against random streets checks or carding by police, while his opponents had more nuanced positions.
An emotional Moore addressed a crowd of supporters at Village Guitar on 20th Street shortly after 10 p.m., when most of the polls had reported and it was clear she would not be victorious.
She maintained that her campaign was one of the best experiences of her life and forced the other mayoral candidates to “raise the bar.”
Speaking with reporters later, she said she would take time over the next few days to reflect on how things turned out the way they did.
“Coming out strong and showing that kind of result early on in the campaign definitely was great on one hand because it got lots of attention and people started to take notice,” Moore said.
“But, on the other side of it, I also think I took a few hits of things that weren’t representative of my campaign and I found myself a few times on the defensive where I didn’t want to be because I wanted to be talking about policies and ideas and ways to move Saskatoon forward, and so those were some of the turning points for sure.”
Atchison’s campaign thrived despite a video that attempted to make him look folksy, but was pulled from the Internet after it was mocked. An Atchison news conference on how to keep Saskatoon’s downtown vibrant was also interrupted by homeless protesters.
Mainstreet Research conducted seven random opinion polls for Postmedia throughout the campaign; at no point did the leading candidate hold a lead beyond the margin of error.
“Obviously a very exciting election campaign and it looks like Charlie Clark really was able to build that momentum,” said David Valentin, executive vice president for Mainstreet Research. “Really, what it came down to — I think — was getting out the vote.”
Moore surged into a slim lead in early October only to watch her support collapse after she struggled to explain several contradictory statements. On Friday, she was forced to apologize after a post on her Facebook page said Atchison and Clark had had their “hands in the public cookie jar” for years.
Moore is married to former two-time Saskatoon mayoral candidate Lenore Swystun. She took a leave from her job as a director with the provincial department of Social Services to run for mayor.
— With files from Charles Hamilton and Andrea Hill