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Results from Surrey’s polling stations show just how close Doug McCallum came to another term as mayor.
On Saturday night, Brenda Locke became mayor-elect in B.C.’s second-largest city with 973 more votes than McCallum. But the next day, the incumbent said he would not concede defeat while his team considers a request for a judicial recount through the B.C. Supreme Court.
A breakdown of the vote released shortly after the election shows Locke as the winner with 28 per cent of the vote, followed by McCallum with 27.3 per cent. Gordie Hogg placed third with 21 per cent, followed by Jinny Sims, with 12.5 per cent, and Sukh Dhaliwal, with 8.1 per cent.
At many polling stations, less than 100 votes separated McCallum and Locke, with the pair winning the exact same number of votes (403) at the Coast Meridian Elementary polling station in Fleetwood.
Only Gordie Hogg, who placed third, had more votes than McCallum and Locke at a handful of polling stations in South Surrey, while Dhaliwal and Sims had consistently lower numbers across the city. Mail-in voters heavily favoured Locke (678) and Hogg (512) over McCallum (240).
Hamish Telford, a political scientist at the University of the Fraser Valley, said it looks like Hogg played the “spoiler” role and drew some of Locke’s votes.
“If he was not in the race, I think her lead would have been much more commanding,” he said.
Telford said he was surprised Sims and Dhaliwal didn’t do better given Surrey’s large South Asian population. “I would have thought it was plausible that they would do better.”
The professor said the even split between candidates with very different positions on the police transition will make things interesting for the next Surrey council.
The vote was neatly divided with a little less than one-third of voters choosing Locke, who wants to retain the RCMP, a little less than one-third standing behind McCallum, who vowed to continue the transition to a municipal police force, and a little more than one-third of voters split between Hogg, Dhaliwal and Sims, who each promised to consider the best course forward.
“Although Locke won fair and square, there is obviously no consensus in the community on that issue,” said Telford.
With four of her Surrey Connect councillors elected, Locke has a “razor-thin” majority on council with herself as the tiebreaker unless she can convince the two Surrey First councillors to join her.
Kwantlen Polytechnic University political scientist Ross Michael Pink said that with 34 per cent voter turnout, it’s difficult to know who voted in each neighbourhood, and therefore make conclusions about socioeconomic status or ethnicity.
Pink said parties may be less important than the candidates themselves, with political fortunes rising and falling on the basis of individual personalities.
“Doug McCallum is a very dynamic, very polarizing individual,” he said, adding the vote could be viewed as a “referendum on McCallum.”
Some centre-right voters may have considered McCallum but voted for Hogg or Locke instead because of McCallum’s legal troubles. The former mayor is due in court later this month on a mischief charge after accusing a woman of running over his foot with a car in a grocery store parking lot.
While McCallum beat Locke in a few neighbourhoods, almost tripling her votes at Chimney Hill Elementary in Newton and doubling them at Ecole Panorama Ridge Secondary, Locke edged him out again and again, and also had some big wins in Cloverdale.
“I don’t think there’s any bellwethers in the data,” said Pink.
While research shows incumbency is a big advantage in local elections, it may have been a contest between McCallum and “anybody else,” he said.
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