As purple confetti fell on a half-empty Guvernment nightclub, supporters of George Smitherman were struggling to figure out what to make of the results.
“We haven’t seen the last of George,” said activist and Smitherman supporter Craig Knowles.
A few Smitherman supporters even cried as the gay former health minister walked through the crowd giving hugs.
Smitherman told the crowd that he set out to change the city, but the city changed him. He too got a little teary eyed.
But in a scrum afterwards, he was less ambiguous.
"I’ve won and I’ve lost,” he said. “Winning is way better.”
Rob Ford will be the next mayor of Toronto.
At Ford’s victory party in Etobicoke, supporters snickered audibly at the mention of Smitherman’s husband. But Ford told his supporters not to boo the second-place candidate, before launching into a typical Ford-style stump speech.
"Four years from tonight, you’ll look back and say Rob Ford did exactly what he said he would do,” he told the crowd.
Back at the Smitherman camp, gay United Church minister Rev John Mastandrea urged voters to get in touch with their new city councillor as soon as possible. City council could be a check on Ford’s slash-and-burn platform.
"Whatever riding you live in, talk to your councillor tomorrow,” he said. "Let Rob Ford know we’re not sleeping."
In the end, it was the gaybourhood Ward 27 race that turned out to be the nail biter. Kristyn Wong-Tam beat out Ken Chan and 13 other candidates in a tight race. At lesbian hangout Slack’s, Wong-Tam supporters, including activists Tim McCaskell and Anna Willats, spent the evening glued to the TV. For over an hour, Wong-Tam and Chan traded the lead as each new set of data was reported.
Gilles Marchildon, former executive director of Egale Canada, was onhand. Wong-Tam will be a progressive champion and stand up to Ford, he said.
Chan supporters at a restaurant near Yonge and Dundas Square greeted him with chants and applause; an even more boisterous crowd greeted Wong-Tam at Slack’s at about 9:30pm.
Some Ward 27 residents were apparently waiting in line until 8:30pm. Chris Tindal, Simon Wookey, Joel Dick, Robert Meynell and Enza Anderson placed 3rd-8th, respectively.
Michael Erickson, the Ward 14 candidate who proposed a gay-specific homeless shelter for Toronto, placed third. The riding will go to incumbent Millerite Gord Perks.
In hotly contested Ward 18, Ana Bailão won, pulling comfortably ahead of Kevin Beaulieu, the former aide to Adam Giambrone, early in the night.
In Ward 6, the evangelical anti-gay pastor Wendell Brereton (subject of an awkward Ford press conference last month) won just 605 votes, behind three other candidates, including Mark Grimes, who took the seat.
In Ottawa, the swing was to the left, with gay-friendly centrist Jim Watson taking the mayoralty from business conservative incumbent Larry O’Brien in a walk. Just like in Toronto, the more interesting races were for individual council seats.
“There is an enormous responsibility for me to live up to the public’s expectations for one, and secondly I have to fulfill the commitments I made in my platform. And that is certainly going to drive me over the course of the next four years. The biggest challenge we have, obviously, in the short term is the budget for 2011,” Watson told Xtra after giving his victory speech.
There will be 10 new councillors in Ottawa. In Capital Ward, former Green Party muckymuck David Chernushenko beat out the owner of a Byward Market nightclub to take the seat vacated by Clive Doucet.
Gaybourhood councillor Diane Holmes was returned to office.
"I am delighted. I work closely with my community neighbourhoods; it’s a real vindication of the work I have been doing,” Holmes told Xtra.
Two neighbouring councillors, Georges Bedard and Christine Leadman, were ousted in the gentrifying Ottawa neighbourhoods of Parkdale and Vanier. Bedard lost to 20-something Mathieu Fleury; Leadman lost to Katherine Hobbs.
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