A split anti-McCallum vote could benefit Surrey mayor, expert says

The possibility of longtime Surrey politician Sukh Dhaliwal joining the mayoral race could help incumbent Doug McCallum

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The possibility of a third high profile challenger coming forward to take on Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum would play into his hands, political scientist Hamish Telford says.

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On Wednesday, veteran Surrey politician Jinny Sims confirmed she would run for mayor against McCallum and current councilor and veteran politician Brenda Locke.

However, it is the potential emergence of another strong candidate – current federal MP for Surrey Newton Sukh Dhaliwal – that could really make a difference, Telford told Postmedia.

He said there had been rumors for several months that Dhaliwal was interested in getting into municipal politics after holding a federal Surrey seat three times in the past 18 years. Dhaliwal was an organizer in Surrey’s municipal politics before attempting federal politics for the first time in 2004 when he narrowly failed to win the Newton-North Delta ride as a Liberal.

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In 2008 he won that riding but in 2011 he was defeated by Sims with the federal NDP. Then in 2015 (with driving now changed to Surrey Newton) Dhaliwal captured Sims – who then moved on to provincial politics. He also won in 2019.

“It is a three-way race so far, but there are rumors that Sukh Dhaliwal is exploring a run. He would be an important player if he was in the campaign,” Telford said.

Postmedia contacted Dhaliwal, who did not respond within the deadline.

“They’re all going for the anti-McCallum vote and the more candidates that run for the anti-McCallum vote, the more they split those votes,” Telford said.

“Unfortunately for them, voters don’t get into a big tangle to say who we’re going back to. They make calculations individually and may end up splitting their votes. In addition, it is very possible that more established candidates will enter the race.”

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Telford said the current candidates would have done their own poll showing they had a shot at the top job. He said Dhaliwal probably would have done the same, but the rise of Sims (an old rival) might turn him down.

“The top candidates are definitely taking polls and I imagine Doug McCallum has done his polls suggesting he still has a path to victory. I imagine Jinny Sims and Brenda Locke also did their poll and believe they have a path to victory,” Telford said, adding that Locke had the advantage of being the first to reveal she was running against McCallum.

McCallum was elected in 2018 — after serving as Mayor of Surrey from 1996 to 2002, losing to Dianne Watts in 2005 — and has become a controversial figure on the council.

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“Jinny Sims comes in second, so if Dhaliwal is considering a campaign, he’s now the third mover and that changes the equation as it’s much harder to predict the outcome,” Telford said.

“He can throw his hat in the ring or conclude it’s too unpredictable and not.”

Despite the power each mayor of Surrey has, they are generally elected by a relatively meager percentage of the city’s population.

In 2018, McCallum won by 45,564 votes in a city with more than 500,000 votes. Locke won 40,497 votes as councilor.

Dhaliwal won Surrey Newton by less than 19,000 votes.


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