Last week, the Ontario Superior Court ruled that Maria Augimeri’s narrow Ward 9 victory (89 votes!) in last October’s municipal election was invalid because of irregularities in the voter list. City staff are saying they’ll appeal the case, but if the court’s decision stands Toronto could be heading for a by-election in North York that would be a showdown between a Rob Ford critic and a Rob Ford supporter—in this case, we’re assuming Gus Cusimano will be running again. To make the situation even more juicy, the man credited for getting Ford elected—erstwhile electoral mastermind Nick Kouvalis—has offered to run Cusiamo’s campaign, should the by-election go ahead.
“Augimeri isn’t keen on implementing Ford’s agenda,” Kouvalis said in a phone interview Monday, adding he plans to frame the by-election as “referendum” on Ford’s progress, with a plea to give him another vote to expand contracting-out, cut the budget and other conservative initiatives.
“Augimeri votes with the left on most occasions and, if we can replace her with somebody who votes on the center-right on most occasions, that would be a huge victory for the mayor,” Kouvalis said.
Calling this as-yet-theoretical win for the mayor “huge” suggests that either Kouvalis has never heard the words “diminishing returns” or he thinks that Rob Ford’s position on council is weaker than advertised. Adding one more vote to Ford’s 2:1 advantage on council isn’t going to make or break the mayor’s agenda. The Star reports that the mayor’s inner circle is worried about council’s “mushy middle” turning against them. But if that’s the case, it’s going to be because of the coming showdown over next year’s budget, not Maria Augimeri.
Aside from the grudge-match, Ford and his allies are eager to turn this in to a referendum on Ford’s performance as mayor so far. The question is: has the wave of inchoate rage that carried Ford to office receded yet? Can a man still run as an anti-incumbent gravy-hunter when his name is preceded by the words “His Worship”?
(Images: Augimeri, toronto.ca; Cusimano, Facebook)