Odd Thoughts: Langley election proves The Rule

Columnist Bob Groeneveld offers his take on why the Township election is shaping up this way.

Anyone who is surprised that Kim Richter suddenly announced she would be seeking re-election as a councillor after ostensibly campaigning to be mayor for nearly a year doesn’t understand the realities of municipal politics in Langley the way she does.

After sending up a trial balloon earlier this summer, Eric Woodward (of Fort Langley development fame) also decided to shoot for the easier meat this fall.

They’re both smart enough to know that, in Langley, you can’t win an election against a sitting mayor.

It’s The Rule in this town.

And according to The Rule, the only way either of them – or anyone else – would be able to get Jack Froese out of that chair is if he loses.

Froese’s predecessor Rick Green didn’t win the election that pried Kurt Alberts out of the Mayor’s chair. Alberts lost it, both through an accumulation of community disgruntlement and by the failure of… well, practically everybody… to realize that Green was a real threat.

And then Green lost the next election because, in fact, he never should have been a threat in the first place – except maybe as a threat to common sense.

Despite some grumbling here and there, Froese probably feels he hasn’t stirred up enough enmity to clinch a loss this fall. Nevertheless, he may have been looking over his shoulder for the better part of the past year, while veteran Councillor Richter remained under the influence of wishful thinking.

With Richter’s name recognition and experience, The Rule could become fragile. And when that happens, chaos looms.

Mayor John Scholtens learned that lesson when then-longtime Councillor Heather McMullan challenged The Rule in 1999. She announced her intention early to run for the mayoralty, and in defiance of The Rule, she quickly became the clear favourite.

But the race between the two became so rancorous – you can find details in BC Supreme Court documents and proceedings over the following few years – that The Rule went into hiding, and Mayor Kurt Alberts emerged.

It’s because of The Rule that you generally only see real contenders face off against an incumbent mayor every three or four terms. It takes that long for most mayors (except Green) to make enough mistakes to lose an election.

This time out, Richter and Woodward both studied The Rule, and they both determined Froese is not yet ready to lose.

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