So on Friday night, I decided to watch the West Carleton-March debate–isn’t that the sort of thing we all do on a Friday night? No? Damn.
Four years ago, I only watched 18 of the 23 debates (if I recall correctly), and I’m going to try to bat for the cycle this time, so even if I’m not super interested in the race, I’m going to try to watch the debate (I only made through about half of the Cumberland debate, that’ll be the exception). I figured West Carleton-March would be a pretty straightforward debate.
Hoo-boy was I wrong!
First, let’s cover this thing. Eli El-Chantiry is running for third? fourth? fifth? time. I really can’t remember, and I’m too lazy right now to look it up. He was first elected in 2003 or 2006, I’m pretty sure.
El-Chantiry chairs the Police Board, which is a pretty plum assignment. It can give you some good publicity (assuming you don’t get in some weird stand-off with the cops’ union leader), and sur ewill help if you’re in a ward that cares about policing.
Four years ago, he didn’t really have a strong challenger. There were three or four others running. Brendan Gorman was the most intriguing, but couldn’t really stand up to El-Chantiry. John Mark, a radio personality, was less than stellar, but in his own way. Somehow, he managed something like 35% of the vote compared to El-Chantiry’s 47% (again, if I recall correctly). That’s far better than I expected, and, hey, maybe that means El-Chantiry is vulnerable to a stronger challenger.
He’s got two challengers this year: Jim Parsons and Judi Varga-Toth.
Parsons ran four years ago, and though kind of amusing, isn’t much of a challenger.
Varga-Toth is much more impressive. I hadn’t gotten much from her website or Twitter presence, but she came to play at the debate. I didn’t do a write-up, but I did do an extensive live-tweeting.
So, yeah, the debate. Varga-Toth was strong. She challenged El-Chantiry. She was channelling the rural anger and discontent that I’m sure is out there. She wouldn’t back down and she wouldn’t let El-Chantiry off the hook.
Then it happened. It was subtle. But it was something.
If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you probably know what happened. El-Chantiry was speaking, Varga-Toth jumped in, and Eli put his hand on her forearm, clutching it to signal that it was time for to be quiet as he was about to speak.
He then went on to condescendingly explain that she had to listen to other people speak.
It was smarmy. It was gross. It was both sexist and the move of a besieged incumbent who was looking to run out the clock on the debate.
I didn’t snag the video, but thankfully another Twitter user, Susan King (@suki50), did:
It doesn’t really look like much, does it? But it’s enough. It’s inappropriate, and El-Chantiry should be chastised for this behaviour.
Anyway, back to things.
Endorsement: Judi Varga-Toth
No, not because El-Chantiry acted like a jackass, though that’d be a perfectly acceptable reason. Varga-Toth was incredibly impressive here. She had done her research. She spoke to what residents (she says) wanted. She highlighted problems in the ward that haven’t been addressed. She banged the table for better consultation, communication and representation. And she presented an idea of what representation for the ward should look like, and what it should do.
Now, I don’t totally agree with her. I think there was a lot of the typical rural complaints that lack merit (mixed in with some standard complaints that are well-merited). I think she falls into the trap of so many candidates, seeking to promise more than she could deliver…but still, what she was offering was better than what El-Chantiry was offering.
Oh, and if you just want to vote against El-Chantiry because of his behaviour, that’s cool. Go right ahead.