By Justin Prince
The City of Windsor now has a new mayor.
Drew Dilkens, who previously represented Ward 1 on city council, was elected the 34th mayor in the city’s history Oct. 27. Dilkens received more than 55 per cent of the ballot while runner-up John Millson, the mayor of Windsor from 1988-1991, received 27 per cent of the vote. DWBIA chair Larry Horwitz finished third with about 12 per cent of the vote.
As the new mayor-elect entered the Giovanni Caboto Club, hundreds of people, from fellow politicians to children wearing Fred Francis t-shirts, cheered as he took to the stage.
“Well this is a great night and obviously Jane (Deneau), Madison, Jack and I am extremely excited to be here. We’re very excited with the result,” said Dilkens alongside his family on-stage. “The voters in this city were given a clear choice. To go back to the way things used to be, or to move forward and build on our success. And tonight, we know which direction the residents chose for our city. They want to continue building on our success.”
Horwitz, who had more than 7,000 votes, also spoke to the audience at the Caboto Club after the results came in. Horwitz said he believed in Dilkens’s ability of being mayor and would support him to bring Windsor “to the next level.”
“About six months ago, I started a journey. My father, who lived in Windsor most of his life, passed away, and I decided to dedicate the next little while to serve the people of Windsor and trying to make this community greater than it is.” said Horwitz. “And in those last six months, I’ve probably visited around 15,000 or 20,000 homes across this city and I met the most amazing people. I probably visited more than 100 businesses in this city. I found out that they need things and they need a great city to be part of. I feel this city can move to the next level, and it will.”
But many Windsorites were also upset about the voter turnout. According to the official election results released by the city, the number of ballots cast went down from more than 70,000 votes in 2010 to under 59,000 in 2014, a 17 per cent decrease. The amount of votes cast for the winning candidate in the mayoral election also decreased.
Outgoing mayor Eddie Francis won the 2010 election over Rick Limoges with more than 39,000 ballots cast for his name. Dilkens needed 7,000 less ballots to become elected this year despite there being more candidates than in 2010. In a Ward 4 discussion forum, many residents and politicians called for more engagement and for schools to teach civic responsibility.
“This poor turnout is a wake-up call. The community needs to be engaged,” said Dave Cooke on Twitter, a former MPP in Windsor-Essex County who worked on Millson’s campaign.
But the night wasn’t short of confusion. Abe Taqtaq, the campaign manager for Dilkens, said in a tweet about 30 minutes after the polling stations closed that Millson had conceded his nomination from the election. Millson had spent the election night at the Teutonia Club. Since then, Millson’s campaign Twitter account has gone dormant and his website has been shut down. Millson had received 49 per cent less votes compared to when he was elected mayor in 1988.
“I had checked with the Dilkens campaign and I heard directly from the Dilkens campaign that their exit polls had come in and showed them winning the election,” said Eddie Francis after the announcement. “Shortly thereafter, they received a concision letter from Millson.”
According to Dilkens, he focused on running a positive campaign based on the city’s performance. Francis said that will help Dilkens along with any councillors who were re-elected.
“I was not hearing overwhelming amount of the community saying they wanted to change course,” said Francis. “The results of that you see mayor-elect Dilkens be very successful by maintaining the course and building on our success. The same applies to the incumbents. All the incumbents have done very well based on their track record … For those candidates running a positive campaign, maintaining the course and staying the course, they’ll do very well.”
All newly-elected councillors, school board trustees and Mayor Dilkens will begin their terms on Dec. 1. The next municipal election will be held in October 2018.