With incumbents gone, runners-up eye open council seats With incumbents gone, runners-up eye open council seats
One hundred and nine votes. Justin Di Ciano lost his 2010 bid for Toronto City Council by just 109 votes. ‘‘The way the election... With incumbents gone, runners-up eye open council seats

One hundred and nine votes. Justin Di Ciano lost his 2010 bid for Toronto City Council by just 109 votes.

‘‘The way the election ended last time with a re-count, it wasn’t how we wanted it to end. A lot of people thought we won. Then they woke up the next day and saw that we had lost,’’ said Di Ciano.

Now he’s back to take another shot at the seat in the Etobicoke-Lakeshore riding.

But this time Di Ciano won’t face former councillor Peter Milczyn, to whom he lost in 2010. Milczyn was elected MPP for the Liberal party this summer. Instead, he faces a number of lesser-known candidates.

And Di Ciano’s situation is not unique.

Incumbents in seven of the city’s 44 wards are not running in this year’s election. This creates big opportunities for runners-up in the 2010 election who’ve decided to run once again, as they don’t have to campaign against incumbents who generally have big advantages due to name-recognition, campaign infrastructure and well-established donor structures.

Di Ciano’s biggest opponent this time will be Milczyn’s former executive assistant Kinga Surma. However, Surma was fired from Milczyn’s office last year after having campaigned against him in the Etobicoke-Lakeshore provincial by-election where she supported Milczyn’s chief opponent Doug Holiday.

‘‘It’s an open race. It’s going to come down to who has got the best ideas and who can make it happen or show how they’ll make it happen,’’ said Di Ciano.

A big issue in the ward is the plan to revitalize the Queensway area. Both Di Ciano and Surma are vowing to push the illegal sex trade out.

Di Ciano said he’s running because Ward 5 has not had proper leadership and representation that gave the community a voice at City Hall.

John Campbell, a second-time candidate in the Etobicoke Centre riding, is in a similar spot as Di Ciano. Four years ago, Campbell lost to Coun. Gloria Lindsay Luby by only 309 votes.

Coun. Lindsay Luby has since announced she’s not seeking re-election. Instead the veteran councillor endorsed Niels Christensen, the president of the Humber Valley Village Residents’ Association.

Campbell is also forced to face Chris Stockwell, a former Progressive Conservative MPP, who added his name to ballot on the last day of the nomination period.

But the former Toronto District School Board chair likes his chances based on the 2010 result.

‘‘Last time around, I ran against a long-time incumbent who had been in office since 1985. I was outspent by $25,000 and she only beat me by just over 300 votes,’’ said Campbell, who’s running again because he believes he can make a valuable contribution at City Hall.

Campbell and Christensen are both promising upgrades to the sewer infrastructure in the ward.

The area was severely hit during last summer’s flooding, which caused problems for many residents in Etobicoke Centre.

Similar to the two Etobicoke wards, the race to fill former councillor Adam Vaughan’s seat in the Trinity-Spadina riding is heating up. One of the candidates gunning for victory is the runner-up from 2010, Mike Yen.

Yen lost to Vaughan by nearly 13,000 votes four years ago. But in this election, the Toronto Entertainment District Residents Association founder likes his chances.

‘‘Now that Adam Vaughan has left, the community has rallied around Mike. He’s one of the top candidates,’’ said Yen’s campaign manager, Albert Ho.

But Yen is facing some tough competition. Former mayoral candidate and publisher Sarah Thomson as well as Joe Cressy, a former MP candidate for the New Democratic Party who lost this summer’s by-election against Vaughan, are both looking to grab the seat.

According to a Forum Research Poll, Cressy seems to have a lock on the seat, polling at 47 per cent of the vote. Thomson and Yen are far behind at seven and three per cent respectively.

Yen writes on his website he’s running because the ward needs a councillor willing to fulfill the ‘‘shared goals and shared opportunities’’ of the city.

But with Election Day fast approaching, Yen must convince a majority of the some 76,600 residents in Trinity-Spadina he has the best ideas on condo-development and the proposed expansion of the Billy Bishop Airport. Both are top issues in the ward.

And Yen’s campaign manager believes it can be done.

‘‘Right now, it’s a matter of name recognition and Mike has a lot of inroads with various community groups. We rely on them to spread the word,’’ said Ho.

Adam Jonsson

Adam is a fourth year journalism student and freelance writer. He moved to Toronto from Sweden in 2011. Adam has also lived in New Zealand where his reporting on the Christchurch earthquake in February 2011 was picked up by Swedish media. Adam is a soccer and hockey fan and has a big interest in politics.