Kind of, but not really.
Adam Giambrone speaking at City Hall. Photo by Miles Storey/Torontoist.
In the second act of Adam Giambrone’s career, the one-time mayoral aspirant has landed in New York as the director of a $2.5-billion light rail project.
New York mayor Bill de Blasio’s new streetcar czar (everyone is a czar of something in New York) inspired some media Googling from New York on down to the New York Post. And hey, they found something.
In February 2010, Giambrone officially declared his candidacy for mayor of Toronto. Ten days later, he dropped out of the race after allegations that he had an affair on the couch of his Council office.
And then Toronto elected Rob Ford.
The question of the day is whether Giambrone is like former New York City council member and mayoral aspirant Anthony Weiner. Let us examine the evidence.
They started young
After running for Parliament in Montreal at age 20, Giambrone became the federal president of the NDP at age 24. Two years later, Giambrone was elected to Toronto City Council in 2003 at age 26, and was the youngest member of Council at the time.
After serving as an aide to future New York senator Chuck Schumer, Weiner became the youngest member of council in New York history after being elected at age 27.
Verdict: Pretty much the same here!
Establishing their issues
In the David Miller administration, Giambrone was taken under the mayor’s wing. In his second term, he was given one of the most important appointments at the City, chairing the Toronto Transit Commission during a period of rapid growth and long overdue investment in the agency.
Weiner held a variety of positions over his career as a councilman and seven-term congressman, and made issues such as public housing, support for first responders of 9/11, and opposition to tax cuts to the rich as key parts of the Weiner #brand.
Verdict: Not quite the same! Weiner put in much more time over a range of issues than Giambrone, who is mostly identified with a single issue, transit.
Giambrone offered a choir boy image, and couldn’t recover when news broke about text messages showing him breaking up with a 19-year-old. That 19-year-old was not his long-term girlfriend Sarah (whom he would marry 18 months later), but the two did have an affair that took them to his Council office couch. In the context of Rob Ford or even George Smitherman, maybe a consensual affair shouldn’t be a particularly galling scandal. But politics is largely about outcomes relative to expectations, and by this standard the earnest and idealistic Giambrone failed. His response to the scandal was also weak, right down to the strange announcement where he declared he would drop out. Why did the speech feel so abrupt? He forgot to read the second page.
There are really two Anthony Weiner scandals. There’s the first one, where he sent direct messages of him in his boxers to women on Twitter, and there’s the second one, where, following much criticism, soul-searching, apologies, and his comeuppance, he did the same thing. There were a lot of great New York Post covers in there too. Throughout it all, Weiner was almost always defiant and argued he would fight for constituents the same way that he would fight through his scandals. If solving the problem of affordable housing was as easy as not sending photos of the bulge in your pants, he would be an ideal candidate. Instead, he won five per cent of the vote in the Democratic primary after refusing to drop out.
Verdict: There’s similarities in the scandals (they use phones!), but they really don’t go beyond the surface. Giambrone and Weiner have very different personalities, and it shows in how they responded to their respective personal crises.
Remember Sun News? It was a thing. For a while, Giambrone was a contributor to the wannabe Fox News North, where he fit in playing the Alan Colmes’ role of left-wing talking head that no one in the target demographic agrees with. He then ran in a Scarborough by-election where he disavowed Transit City and the principles he fought for as TTC chair in order to bolster his long-shot political comeback. He finished in third.
After a turn as a lobbyist, Weiner was let go from a PR firm. He also appeared in the 2015 film Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!.
Verdict: Around the same level of shamelessness.
Due to their status as rising politicians marred by so-called sexting scandals, Giambrone and Weiner have a similar narrative arc. But that arc also doesn’t get to who they really are, and how their approaches differ. Sorry New York Post, but if you’re expecting lots of great Giambrone covers, you’re probably not getting them.