Henry Braun romped to victory Saturday to become the first incumbent mayor to win re-election in Abbotsford in nearly two decades.
Braun’s win came on a night of joy for the city’s incumbent councillors, with all seven who sought to retain their seats prevailing at the polls. Only Coun. Moe Gill won’t be returning, his 22-year local political career coming to an end with a failed bid to replace Braun.
Replacing Gill will be Bruce Banman, who easily won a seat on council four years after being edged out of the mayor’s chair by Braun.
After the results were declared, Braun said he was “relieved” and “elated.”
Henry Braun claimed 57 per cent of the mayoral vote Saturday, easily outdistancing five challengers and improving upon his tally from 2014. The last incumbent Abbotsford mayor to win re-election was George Ferguson in 1999, three years before he was defeated. Since then, the city has seen a string of one-term mayors.
“We’ve had three or maybe four one-term mayors. I didn’t want to be another one … I’m thankful that the citizens of Abbotsford have entrusted the city to me for another four years.”
Braun said he had been targeting the 50 per cent threshold, and was “pleasantly surprised” with the results. He said he was also pleased to see council’s incumbents returned.
The News was only briefly able to reach Gill on election night, with the longtime councillor saying midway through the release of results that he had stopped watching the numbers come in.
Gill claimed 18 per cent of the vote, and finished in third, 167 votes behind second-place Eric Nyvall.
Nyvall wrote on Facebook that “defeat can be humbling, but will only serve to make one stronger.”
He wrote the results show that “Abbotsford wanted no change whatsoever” and also decried the turnout of millennials.
Nyvall said the three-way race was tough to predict, and speculated that voters might have been willing to consider change, but retreated to the safety of the incumbent in the face of uncertainty about potential vote-splitting.
Nyvall also credited Braun for making no errors during his campaign.
Patricia Ross again led the council tallies, appearing on 56 per cent of ballots en route to claiming 18,319 votes. Ross has sat on council since 1994 and topped the council polls every year since at least 2002.
She was followed by Banman and Les Barkman, who each appeared on 52 per cent of ballots, with 17,224 and 17,223 votes respectively.
Aside from Ross, Banman and Barkman are the first council candidates this decade to appear on more than half of ballots. Dave Loewen finished fourth. Like Barkman, Loewen improved on his 2014 results by more than 5,000 ballots.
The AbbotsfordFirst slate had been assailed by council competitors during the campaign, with criticism directed less at individuals than at the idea of party politics. With no slate having run for re-election in Abbotsford before, it was unclear how members of the party would fare in their bids to retain their seats.
But the AbbotsfordFirst foursome of Brenda Falk, Ross Siemens, Kelly Chahal and Sandy Blue were all able to close out the list of re-elected incumbents.
After the results, Chahal said the pushback against the slate “obviously didn’t translate into what happened tonight.”
“I think it’s a comfort level with people, of who they know and that we have been working hard the last four years, and great things have happened in the city and we have been part of it. And since we’ve been part of this council, just take a look around visually and you see a difference.”
All four AbbotsfordFirst incumbents garnered more than 12,500 votes, leaving Dave Sidhu, a fifth AbbotsfordFirst candidate and the only non-incumbent on the slate’s ticket, on the outside looking in.
Paul Redekopp also performed well but came up short. Both garnered more than 11,500 votes, a figure that would have earned the men a spot in the top four in any previous election this decade.
But 2018’s vote was uniquely top-heavy, with two of every three votes going to one of the eight elected councillors.
Sidhu, who finished fewer than 500 votes back of Blue, said he was disappointed, having been very confident that he would win a seat.
“Unfortunately, we missed the mark,” he said. “The campaign experience was great. I thoroughly enjoyed working with everyone on the AbbotsfordFirst team.”
The general manager of the Patrika newspaper, Sidhu said he will look to stay involved. As one of just a handful of candidates under the age of 40 to run, Sidhu said he wants to help prevent Indo-Canadian youth from falling into gang life.
Redekopp, meanwhile, took solace in the fact that he boosted his vote total from 2014 by around 3,000 ballots.
“That’s makes me feel better about not getting in,” said Redekopp, adding that his vote tally shows a public appetite for his message.
“People want to be heard … They’re not being heard regardless of what council says about their avenues to approach them.”
Barkman, meanwhile, said the results, with four non-slate candidates leading the polls, suggest the public wants independent voices on council.
“I think we heard a lot of people don’t like party politics and I think that was pretty strongly said.” But, he added: “We still have to go down the river in the same boat.”
Banman, for his part, said he was excited to return to city politics.
“I look forward to being able to have some input around the table and listen to the concerns of the people,” he said. “I have missed interacting with the people of this city terribly.”
Barkman and Nyvall noted that the power of incumbency is tough for would-be councilors to overcome. Even as the mayoralty has flipped back and forth, only two incumbents over the last decade have lost their seats.
MAYOR (elect one)
Henry Braun (incumbent): 18,732 – 57%
Eric Nyvall: 6159 – 19%
Moe Gill: 5992 – 18%
Trevor Eros: 957 – 3%
Gerda Peachey: 560 – 2%
Nadine Snow: 514 – 2%
COUNCILLOR (elect eight)
Patricia Ross (incumbent): 18,319
Bruce Banman: 17,224
Les Barkman (incumbent): 17,223
Dave Loewen (incumbent): 15,471
Brenda Falk (incumbent/AbbotsfordFirst): 14,904
Ross Siemens (incumbent/AbbotsfordFirst): 14,872
Kelly Chahal (incumbent/AbbotsfordFirst): 12,838
Sandy Blue (incumbent/AbbotsfordFirst): 12,669
Dave Sidhu (AbbotsfordFirst): 12,187
Paul Redekopp: 11,518
Josh Reynolds: 7941
Jas Anand: 5839
Aird Flavelle: 5410
Dao Tran: 5394
Harry Manocha: 5195
Vince Dimanno: 4053
Harvey Jongsma: 3262
Lawrence Tilley: 2630
TRUSTEES (elect seven)
Korky Neufeld: 12,388
Stan Petersen (incumbent): 12,295
Shirley Wilson (incumbent): 11,425
Preet Rai (incumbent): 11,091
Rhonda Pauls (incumbent): 10,327
Phil Anderson (incumbent): 10,064
Freddy Latham (incumbent): 9568
Jared White: 9540
Krista Cardinal: 9351
Earl Storey: 8514
Shelly Godwin: 8319
Raj Patara: 7860
Kathryn Sobko: 6945
Kuldeep Singh: 6486
Heidi Smit-Vinois: 5764
Michael Battel: 5179
Graham Evan MacDonell: 4009