Despite grumblings within the party, the board of the Non-Partisan Association moved in September to protect its elected civic officials, including Mayor Sam Sullivan, from challengers in a nomination contest. However, Sullivan is leaving nothing to chance.
"That kind of rule can be changed any time," former NPA councillor Maggie Ip told the Georgia Straight. "We are not taking any chances."
Ip is one of three individuals recently designated by Sullivan to head up what she described as the mayor's personal "campaign readiness team". The two other leaders of the team are Stephen Rogers, a former federal Conservative candidate and ex–Social Credit provincial cabinet minister, and Christopher Ian Bennett, former interim leader of the Green Party of B.C.
Ip, an influential figure in Vancouver's Chinese Canadian community, said that the three of them are the cochairs of the team, whose other members will be announced soon. "Since Sam has indicated that he would like to stay on and be renominated and reelected, we just think that maybe we can start early so that we have plenty of time to do the work," Ip said.
In an interview with the Straight in early 2007, Coalition of Progressive Electors councillor David Cadman suggested that Sullivan is laying the groundwork to run as an independent if he fails to bag the NPA's mayoral nomination for the November 2008 election.
"There are a lot of people within the NPA who are not very comfortable with Sam Sullivan, which is why I think he has hired his own private consultants," Cadman said in January.
If Sullivan were to run as an independent, he could rely on what his opponents suspect is a sizable war chest. In a recent interview with the Straight, Vision Vancouver councillor Raymond Louie noted that the mayor has been raising funds for his reelection bid separate from the NPA.
Ip noted that Sullivan is a "serious candidate" and that their team is "mostly now working on the NPA".
When reached by the Straight, Rogers said that getting Sullivan nominated by the NPA is "not our biggest problem".
"I'm not terribly concerned about that," Rogers said. "Our biggest problem will be depending on who are the other candidates outside the NPA."
Asked whom he considers to be the strong contenders in the upcoming mayoral race, Rogers said that Carole Taylor, the B.C. finance minister, is one possibility. "There may be others," he said. "We've never had a mayoral race in Vancouver in my lifetime that hasn't been contested. I don't expect the mayor to get reelected without a challenge."
The team hasn't met formally, but Rogers expects the three cochairs to start planning in early 2008.
In an interview with the Straight in September, Matthew Taylor, president of the NPA board, explained that the board has adopted what he described as a "green-light process" for incumbent civic officials who want to run again in 2008.
At that time, Taylor said that a "green-light committee" would be formed to receive applications from incumbents, review the record of each applicant, and make a recommendation at the NPA's annual general assembly in April 2008.
The NPA caucus at the Vancouver park board, led by then-chair Ian Robertson, opposed protecting incumbents from challengers in favour of open nomination fights, but the NPA board went ahead and approved the nomination rules. NPA councillor Peter Ladner told the Straight in September that he prefers having candidates go through nominations.
Ellen Woodsworth, a former city councillor and currently COPE's external cochair, noted that Sullivan's choice of Ip, Rogers, and Bennett is a "smart move".
Woodsworth explained to the Straight that Ip carries a lot of weight in the vote-rich Chinese Canadian community and that Rogers represents the mayor's constituency among Conservatives, who are usually significant campaign donors, while Bennett provides a green coating to Sullivan's candidacy.
Bennett couldn't be reached for comment. On his blog (victoriabound.blogspot.com/), Bennett praised Sullivan's so-called EcoDensity initiative, claiming that it is Vancouver's "only real shot at becoming a truly green city".
"I've seen the Mayor's vision for this city, and it's awesome," Bennett wrote in a December 17 post. "We need to give this guy another term to really get it done."