Penticton has a history of having large numbers of candidates running in municipal elections, but this year seems like it might be setting a new record.
Wolf Depner, a political scientist at University of British Columbia Okanagan, said having 28 people filing nomination papers for council and mayor could be good or bad.
“It depends on the quality of the challenger and of the incumbents,” said Depner. “The high number of candidates is both an opportunity and a threat.”
When the nomination period closed on Oct. 10, 25 people had filed nomination papers for council, along with three mayoral contenders. According to Western News archives, that trumps the last three municipal elections, though not by a large margin. Though a total of 28 candidates seems like a large amount, it’s only four more than ran in 2005 and 2011.
In 2011, 19 people put themselves forward for councillor and five for mayor, for a total of 24 candidates. In 2008, the total dropped to 20 candidates — four for mayor and 16 for council. And in 2005, there was also 24 candidates, three for mayor and 21 for council.
Having a large field is an opportunity, Depner explained, because with the vote spread over more candidates, it lowers the threshold needed to gain a seat on council. But especially for incumbents, it can be a threat.
“Even if you lose a little bit of your built-in support and it goes elsewhere, you might find yourself on the way out,” said Depner.
Depner said he gets the sense that voters in this year’s municipal election are open to different possibilities, but while the number of candidates suggests a high interest in municipal politics, it will come down to voter turnout on election day.
If turnout remains low, he said, that suggests interest is limited to a small segment of population. But if turnout increases — Penticton saw 29 per cent turnout in the 2011 election — that suggest a broader interest in issues.
“It just might indicate that whatever interest is out there is getting more and more fractured. There might be just one or two issues that are causing people to get involved, without necessarily having a broad interest in municipal politics.”
Depner cautions, however, about the election campaign becoming more about personalities than issues.
“I think people should vote on the issues rather than on the individuals. If the election campaign was strictly about individuals, one might argue that was pretty superficial. If it is about issues, that suggests a more substantive debate,” said Depner, who adds that Penticton’s mayoral race should be interesting.
John Vassilaki and Andrew Jakubeit, both incumbent councillors, declared their intention to seek the mayor’s chair in September. They were joined by a third candidate, Jukka Laurio on Friday. Laurio ran in 2011, but dropped out of the race when previous convictions for drug trafficking and a sex offence were discovered by the Western News. Depner said both Vassilaki and Jakubeit are strong candidates.
“You have people that have been involved in the community for a long time, people that have been on council for a long time. Jakubeit and Vassilaki are the frontrunners in that race, so I would say that really bodes well,” said Depner. “It would have been more interesting if there was a strong third candidate, who has a track record of being in the community, who has had a long history of community affairs but hasn’t necessarily been at council.”
To view the full list of candidates and their bios visit www.pentictonwesternnews.com/municipalelection.