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Can Sarah Thomson Keep It Real all the Way to the Mayor’s Chair?

Short answer: not this time, but she could be playing the long game.

Photo from Sarah Thomson’s Twitter account.

Remember how much fun we had in the municipal election of 2010? It boasted a field of candidates so spectacularly ineffectual that all were defeated by Rob Ford, who, although not yet the towering figure of notoriety he is today, had already managed to convince a great many people he was unfit to be mayor of anything more sophisticated than a Habitrail full of gerbils.

Although most of 2010′s other also-rans have avoided putting new targets on their backs, Sarah Thomson has chosen to step up to the plate once again.

One of Thomson’s defining qualities is showmanship, and she registered for the race in classic Thomson style, turning up at City Hall in some kind of horse-drawn beer cart after tumblring a poem she wrote herself on the topic of subway expansion in Toronto (as of this morning, that tumblr account is “not found”).

While she’s always had a knack for grandstanding, Thomson’s style has shifted since her last shot at Toronto’s top job. In place of the besuited pro-business candidate of 2010, we find a dread-locked, poetry-spouting, street-dancing free spirit (presumably aware that perceived eccentricity isn’t always a vote-grabber, in her campaign video she devotes a full 44 seconds of a four-minute interview, conducted by her young son, to explaining that she wears dreadlocks because she’s “keeping it real”).

In general, Thomson’s website is trite and uninformative—the platform section, for example, is made up only of a series of bullet points espousing some generally admirable things that she wants to do, like building subways, revamping city council, and getting more movies shot in Toronto. At this point, little detail is provided on the hows, although she does get points for openly supporting road tolls for transit funding.

What does Thomson’s entry mean for the race? Practically speaking, nothing. In 2010, she was shuffled into the “credible candidate” category by virtue of a paucity of choices, relentless self-promotion, and the media’s searching for someone to interview who wasn’t a disgruntled white man. However, in a field of qualified, experienced contenders like Chow, Tory, Stintz, and Soknacki—as well as Mayor Ford—Thomson’s chances of victory are effectively zero.

Still, it doesn’t pay to underestimate her—in spite of being previously unknown, at one point in 2010, at least one poll placed her third behind Ford and Smitherman, with a respectable 17 per cent of the vote.

It may well be that Thomson is playing the long game, building her brand for the next mayoral contest in 2018. Maybe by then, Mayor Chow, depressed by the daily sight of Rob Ford in an oversized novelty mayors’ sash posing for pictures with tourists in Nathan Phillips Square, will decline to run for re-election. If perennial bridesmaid John Tory is still at that time in the midst of his standard seven-year hibernation cycle between failed election bids, and if few new candidates rally to the call to take on such an unforgiving and thankless job, maybe Thomson and her chutzpah could make it to the top.

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