Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell said mayor-elect Fred Haynes “probably out-campaigned” him while United for Saanich weathered attacks from all sides.
He made these comments Saturday night after losing to Haynes following an election campaign that many observers have interpreted as a rebuke of slates as four of five candidates running as United for Saanich failed to win their respective run for office. First-time candidates Cory Montgomery, Ian Jessop and Kathleen Burton joined Atwell on the outside looking in, while incumbent Karen Harper is returning to council.
“With all the effort we put in, we had five candidates working on it, I think we were probably out-campaigned by [Haynes],” said Atwell. “He was working on this for four years. He actually asked me not to run, he was looking for this in his future.”
Comments from Atwell suggest Haynes was trying to undermine him. “I tried to do my job,” said Atwell. “I felt that I was mayor all that time and competing against someone that was constantly a candidate in the council chambers, in the community and so forth, and I guess that was the more successful strategy.”
Haynes said that that is not his recollection of any conversation with Atwell. “Once elected as a councillor, I worked as a councillor. This included listing to the [mayor],” he said, adding that he has no further comment on this issue.
“Saanich has a dynamic new [council],” said Haynes. “Our residents have spoken. I know we are all looking to the future and our important work these next four years.”
Looking back, Atwell described the last four years as sometimes frustrating with successes along with way.“I stuck [the four years] out. I didn’t have a lot of opportunity to build things. I was only one vote on council. I wasn’t a vote that held anything up, [my] other votes were there to do things. If people were frustrated with the progress, it really wasn’t the fault of my vote.
A software engineer, Atwell said he never intended a career in politics and does not consider himself a traditional politician.
“I got into this job because I don’t feel the government was working well for people, it was a vision of moving forward that delivered results to residents, I think in a way that people aren’t used to seeing,” he said. “That was my approach and I stuck to it the whole time. It was necessary for me to stick to my values and stick to things I believe in.”
Atwell acknowledged difficulties from the first day. “It was a struggle from the beginning when spyware was put on my computer,” he said. “The whole time it’s been a struggle, alliances were hard to make until Karen [Harper] was elected. With the two of us there that was really good. I wanted to build on Harper’s byelection win with a few more people. Three people came forward interested, but it didn’t work out for us.”
Atwell said he was hoping that United for Saanich would benefit everybody, but its uniqueness might have put voters off. “This is the first electoral organization [in Saanich],” he said. “We got attacked on all sides of it. Maybe people decided it was too much of a risk, and they’d rather just have a bunch of few new [councillors].”
While Atwell said that he would have wanted a second term and possibly a third term, that would have been it.
“I believe in term limits, you have to get out of the business,” he said.
with files from Travis Paterson