Council contenders rely on motivated, strong campaign teams

But 'it's the incumbency that decides it for the most part', U of T's Nelson Wiseman says

On a sunny Thursday afternoon, Helen Papadakis, 72, organizes the papers, business cards and flyers laid on the front desk at the John Papadakis campaign office in Ward 29.

She smiles as she greets visitors and converses in Greek with those residents who feel more at ease speaking in their native tongue.

“I open the office, answer calls and speak with Greek people who don’t speak English,” she said.

It’s part of her role in her son’s campaign to listen to constituents’ problems and to establish a general rapport with voters ahead of the Oct. 27 municipal election.

“Just last week there was a guy who had a problem with his driveway and there have also been complaints from the community about the sidewalks, the roads and the snow,” she said. “I listen and explain what can be done and then I tell John about them so that he knows.”

And though he’s not a sitting councillor, candidate Papadakis, 54, said his team is “already doing constituency work”.

“Anything and everything from snow shovelling and bed bugs to immigration and pensions,” said Papadakis, who is running to unseat incumbent Mary Fragedakis. “Mom greets the visitors and takes questions, Elizabeth Harris is my office manager, Deborah O’Hare drafts press and co-creates communications, Linzie Harris and Victoria Goffi are both volunteers, and Eric Cromwell is our distribution coordinator.”

The biggest part of a political campaign is what the candidate can offer and just how compelling [his or her] reason for running is.

—Barry Peters

According to University of Toronto political science professor Nelson Wiseman, much of a candidates success in an election hinges on their campaign team.

“There is no one single way that a campaign is run, and a lot of that will depend on the candidates and the expertise of those advising them,” he said.

Barry Peters, 33, a campaign manager in the Dave Andre campaign in Ward 29, said a campaign team can only be as good as the candidate inspires them to be.

“The biggest part of a political campaign is what the candidate can offer and just how compelling [his or her] reason for running is,” he said. “When you motivate volunteers, you say things like: ‘This is how we’re going to make the lives different of the people living here [and] this is the impact you’re going to have on the community around you, because of the belief that you have in me and my message.’”

But, Wiseman cautioned, a good, motivated campaign team often isn’t enough to guarantee a win.

“In regards to the wards, it’s the incumbency that decides it for the most part,” he said. “And that goes for mayoral races as well. It’s very rare that an incumbent is defeated. … The last time that happened was over 30 years ago.”