TV profile a mixed blessing this election

Although they’re competing for Toronto City council seats in separate wards, Sean McCormick and Liz West have at least one thing in common: A TV personality from their careers in broadcasting.

Sean McCormick, a Ward 19 candidate and former anchor for Rogers Sportsnet, says his background in broadcasting may influence some voters, but he doesn’t use that as a platform.

“If we catch the odd straggler voter that wants to vote for us because I was on Sportsnet, then that’s great,” McCormick said. “But we’re going into this assuming that nobody is voting for me because I was on TV. I think that would be a very dangerous thing to do.”

When it comes to communicating, McCormick believes his broadcasting experience gives him an added advantage.

“I’ve got 60 seconds at every door to get my message across effectively,” he said. “I’ve been able to do that with a lot of success … and I attribute that completely to my background as a presenter.”

Liz West, a Ward 30 candidate who has served as a CP24, CityNews and Canada AM correspondent, has also seen some advantages from her broadcasting background.

“I probably get a few more smiles at the door,” West said. “I feel very fortunate that I get a lot of warm responses and that really helps.”

However, not everyone in her ward recognizes her from television.

“Sometimes they don’t know me from broadcasting; they only know me as the person they see at the park walking my dog,” she said.

As West explained, having a TV personality might come with its disadvantages as well.

“People may assume that I could only do what they’ve seen me do,” she said. “They might not be as open to the possibility that I would have other interests and other talents.”

Royson James, a political columnist for the Toronto Star, explained that having a TV personality won’t single-handedly win a candidate an election, but it does help.

“It’s been shown that a lot of people do vote just for the name,” James said. “They have no idea what it is that you stand for. They just see a name that they recognize and they put an ‘x’ beside it.”

Referring to former Global News anchor and current MP Peter Kent, James said that a recognizable name and face isn’t enough.

“(Peter Kent) ran several times and lost,” he said. “So it obviously takes more than just the winning personality.”