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

Reo Rocheleau. ‘Scroll down to the R.’ (Image: CFJC Today)

An Armchair Mayor editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

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. Mel Rothenburger’s editorials also appear on CFJC Today.


About Mel Rothenburger (6018 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

3 Comments on EDITORIAL – ‘Fringe’ candidates have a role to play in civic elections

  1. Mel, its journalism like this that sets the tone for politics. With the comment of “someone like Ross Friedman” it immediately sets Dr. Friedman up as less desirable a candidate as Mr. Christensen. Maybe it was not mean in that context, but that is how I read it. I am convinced that what brought the NDP down in the nineties were the daily rants against them by the right wing media. Repeat something often enough and the people will believe anything.

    • Mel Rothenburger // June 8, 2017 at 9:46 AM // Reply

      Your interpretation is incorrect. “Someone like Ross Friedman” does not suggest she is a “less desirable” candidate than Ken Christian. Rather, it refers to the fact that, in a close contest, a credible candidate other than Ken Christian could be assisted by a splitting of votes away from him. On the other hand, if there was an anti-Ken Christian vote, that vote could be split to his benefit.

  2. It’s an opportunity to run for council, try it for a year, put one’s heart and soul into it then decide if the longer term is what one truly would like.

    Personally, I’d like to see a 2-term limit for either/or Mayor or councillor. Would that leave just Mr. Dudy if he decided to run next year?

    Too bad a “poor” person couldn’t get elected. It takes money to be a successful candidate; at least, that’s what I was told by a media outlet that sold advertising and showed the graphs to me.
    A working person or people on fixed incomes don’t end up having too much of a chance at occupying a chair at the horseshoe at 7 Victoria Street West.

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