Conventional wisdom says that it is hard to defeat an incumbent in races for city council seats.  In Toronto, for example, sitting councillors who ran again have been re-elected over 90% of the time in the past three elections. Click here to read a great article on why that is.

Difficult though it may be, defeating a sitting councillor isn’t impossible. True to form, Guelph has blazed its own trail in a few different elections.

In 2003, 5 incumbents who sought re-election were defeated. In the 2006 race, 6 incumbents were defeated by challengers.

Things settled down a bit by 2010, when only 2 sitting councillors were ousted.

Turnover on council, regardless of peoples’ political views, is vital to the continued vibrancy of local democracy. If the odds of being elected are too long or the process too crushing, then talented, passionate people might be less likely to step forward and contribute their skills to the greater good.

I think Guelph is able to defy this “rule” of politics due in part to our size. Relative to Toronto, the number of votes and the dollars spent in municipal campaigns are minuscule, which minimizes to a point the advantages of incumbency. (How much money exactly are we talking? Click here to see how much each candidate spent in the last Guelph election.)

A more important difference is that Guelph elects two councillors per ward, while Toronto chooses only one. This means that every challenger in our city has twice as many possible incumbents to beat.

How is the wind blowing in 2014?

The early indications are that we’ll have at least a few fresh faces on city council after the October vote.

We know that Gloria Kovach in Ward 4, one of the most successful local politicians in recent memory, has chosen not to seek re-election. Cam Guthrie is also vacating his seat in hopes of filling the Mayor’s chair, leaving both Ward 4 seats wide open.

On the other hand, Maggie Laidlaw, who has been elected four times in a row in Ward 3, is running again. (Click here to read why.)

All four councillors from Wards 5 and 6 are also seeking re-election.

So far, half of the current city councillors have announced that they hope to keep their seats. As of this writing, four current councillors haven’t yet declared their intentions.

Let’s make this article more interesting, shall we? Let’s make it about… you.

What are you going to do? When October rolls around, will you be voting for an incumbent or for a new face?

Let us know by voting in this poll. We will release the results on September 1 to make sure we get as many votes as possible. (After you vote, read the fine print below.)

Are you voting for an incumbent in October?

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The fine print.

Many moons ago, I was a political science undergraduate at the University of Guelph. We had to learn by hand the math behind the classic poll descriptor, “this poll is accurate to plus or minus 3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.” So with that infrequently necessary knowledge in mind, I can confidently tell you that this poll is not representative of the wider Guelph population, nor will its results be considered statistically accurate. Essentially, it’s for fun and we shouldn’t read into it too much.

 

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