‘Fringe’ candidates have a role to play in civic elections

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
June 8, 2017 - 11:00am

KAMLOOPS — The presence of so-called “fringe” candidates in municipal elections, as I’ve often said, is a re-affirmation of democracy.

They prove that anyone can run for office at the local level, and be heard.

Every election, there are several of them, folks with no name recognition, little if any community credentials, scant knowledge of issues, no means of mounting any kind of a campaign, and virtually no chance of winning.

Still, they attend candidates’ forums and are profiled by local media as they express their views about what needs to be done at City Hall.

In 2014, Reo Rocheleau ran for a seat on council and placed 28th out of 28 candidates, garnering 484 votes. He was the only candidate to get less than a thousand.

You didn’t see his campaign signs, didn’t hear or see his radio and TV commercials or find his brochure in your mailbox. That’s because he spent exactly zero dollars trying to get elected.

His message, though few people heard it, was that City Hall needs to control its spending. “Scroll down to the R, vote Reo,” he said.

As reported Wednesday by CFJC Today, Rocheleau has raised his sights, taking aim at the vacant mayor’s chair in the upcoming by-election.

He says council should cut the budget, not increase it every year. “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

If he takes a similar approach to the one he took in 2014, Rocheleau will share the stage with other mayoral candidates at forums but otherwise not actively participate, while contenders like Ken Christian and Cynthia Ross Friedman battle it out.

He will probably receive a few hundred votes. Those votes have the potential to have a major impact on the outcome. They could take enough support away from Christian to allow someone like Ross Friedman to “come up the middle” in a close contest.

Alternatively, they could have the Gordon Chow effect. If you’ve forgotten, in 2011 Gordon Chow filed his nomination papers at the last minute, and his 441 votes are thought by some to have enabled mayoral incumbent Peter Milobar to edge by Dieter Dudy by a razor-thin 235 votes. How different the political landscape might be if Chow had missed the nomination deadline.

So, as tempting as it might be to write off the Reo Rocheleaus of this world, they not only have the right to run, but they can — in a perfect political storm — have a major role to play in the outcome.