Del Duca's last stand
Also: Inside the bear pit, privatization pushback, staff moves
ABOVE THE FOLD
DOWN BUT NOT OUT — Don’t call it a comeback — yet.
As first reported in this newsletter, ex-Liberal leader STEVEN DEL DUCA confirmed Tuesday he’s jumping into the race for Vaughan Mayor, in the hopes of replacing the ever-popular MAURIZIO BEVILACQUA, who isn’t seeking another term.
Del Duca is 0 for 2 when it comes to winning a Vaughan election — he failed to win back his own riding of Vaughan—Woodbridge in the 2022 provincial election, after losing it to the PCs’ MICHAEL TIBOLLO in 2018. After turning up a paltry eight seats for the Grits in June’s vote, Del Duca resigned as leader roughly two years after taking the reins.
Now, he’s taking a shot at the Mayor’s seat — and the competition is getting heated, with one candidate suggesting Del Duca shouldn’t look for a “consolation prize” in City Hall.
Behind-the-scenes: Del Duca has enlisted IAN HALL to manage his campaign, while WILL WUEHR is handling the communications side on a volunteer basis.
Both operatives recently left Grit HQ. As we’ve previously scooped, Hall was executive director of the Ontario Liberal Party up until last month, and before that, headed up OLP’s youth wing and worked as a government staffer. Wuehr, who worked on comms for Del Duca as leader, is now at public affairs firm Crestview Strategy.
For his part, the former Transportation Minister says he’s running on an anti-gridlock platform.
“Over the past two months, I have reflected a great deal on my personal future and have taken thee to consider how best to continue to serve the community that I love,” Del Duca said in a release. “I believe passionately in public service and I feel that I have a responsibility to give back.” He added a familiar pledge, echoing the PCs campaign slogan: “I will work relentlessly as Mayor to get the job done.”
While Del Duca came out swinging against the Ford government’s controversial Highway 413 proposal — something that Vaughan voters told me would hurt him on the provincial campaign trail — he’s promising to work with the feds to widen Highway 7 and connect Langstaff Road, move truck traffic from Highway 7 to Highway 407 by subsidizing tolls, secure GO train service for Woodbridge and Kleinburg, and make a push for the Yonge north subway extension.
The field is already crowded. Del Duca will face off with former Liberal MP DEB SCHULTE, local councillor SANDRA YEUNG RACCO, education worker LINO MANCINELLA, real estate agent ROBERT GULASSARIAN, nurse PARVEEN BOLA, and entrepreneur DANNY DESANTIS.
The competition says it’s not so easy to go jurisdiction-hopping.
“It shouldn’t be treated as a kind of consolation prize for politicians who fail elsewhere and now decide to come here,” said Racco, who represents Ward 4, speaking in general terms.
While Del Duca joins many fellow Queen’s Park alumni who enter the municipal fray — including ex-NDP leader ANDREA HORWATH, who’s set to resign her MPP seat before Friday’s deadline in order to run for Hamilton Mayor — Racco says there are specific challenges.
“Frankly, I think the fact that he has no municipal experience is a huge factor,” Racco told me. “People always seem to think that, if you’re in one level of government that you can just jump into another. Well, they work very differently, especially because, provincially and federally, there is more party support. And for municipal [politics], it’s about you. It’s about what can you do, what can you deliver?”
With 18 years of municipal work under her belt, Racco believes she has “much more experience than any of the candidates that has put their name in so far.”
One Liberal insider who has worked on campaigns with Del Duca tells me this is his last stand. “It’s high risk. If he loses this, he’ll be effectively done in politics and will have cemented his place as a permanent loser,” they said. “If he can’t win now, why would anyone give him a dollar again, why would anyone take him back?”
Social media was also buzzing over Del Duca’s announcement — with Tories in particular throwing shade: