Long ballot was good for incumbents

The large number of candidates for Township council helped incumbents, as four of them had fewer votes than in 2008.

Langley Township residents will undoubtedly hear re-elected members of council crow about how their victories at the polls prove that most Township residents back their course of action over the past three years.

Council was almost constantly at odds with Mayor Rick Green, whose style clearly angered voters as well. He was decisively defeated in the three-way race for mayor. By contrast, all six incumbent councillors were re-elected.

The voters’ decision is always the correct one, and there is no doubt that they chose the six incumbents, along with newcomers Michelle Sparrow and David Davis, to comprise the next council. But had there been fewer candidates for   councillor, it’s a pretty safe bet that at least some of the incumbents would have been tossed as well.

What leads me to make that conclusion? There were almost 4,400 more voters in 2011 than in 2008, yet only two of the six incumbents actually received more votes than they did in 2008.

Charlie Fox, who topped the polls, received 17 more votes than he did in 2008, and Bob Long, who placed fourth, was up by 37 votes.

Kim Richter, who came second, had three fewer votes, but Bev Dornan went from placing fourth in 2008 (her first election) to sixth place. In the process, she received 1,083 fewer votes.

Steve Ferguson had 167 fewer votes than in 2008 and Grant Ward, who placed eighth in 2008 but moved up to seventh in 2011, received 457 fewer votes.

With 27 candidates seeking the eight seats, as compared to just 14 in 2008, there were many more people for voters to choose from. All the Vote Langley Now slate members (backed by Green) drew at least 3,500 votes apiece, with Dave Stark, their top vote-getter (he finished 13th), getting 4,220. Green received 4,466.

Even if the VLN candidates are taken out of the equation, the other 12 independent candidates for council drew a lot of votes. Only three of the 12 had ever run for council before.

The 12 of them received a total of 36,924 votes. The top eight of those 12 received 31,325 votes — an average of 3,915 votes apiece. The seven VLN candidates received a total of 26,782 votes — an average of 3,826 apiece.

There was a strong desire among many voters to throw out all the incumbents. I had a call from one resident about a week before the election, who asked if incumbents were marked on the ballot. When I replied “No, that could give them an advantage,” he stated that he wanted to know who they were, so he would not vote for any of them.

The six incumbents received a lot of support from voters, and that’s why they are back. Had there been 16 or 18 candidates, things may have been different.

In our system, the only votes that count are those for the eight council candidates who make it “first past the post” and form the next council.

The big advantage to incumbents when there are more candidates is also shown in the Langley City council election.

There was an absolute drop in the number of voters, from 3,505 in 2008 to 3,438 in 2011. All six incumbent councillors received fewer votes in 2011 than they did in 2008, with one, Rudy Storteboom, losing his seat by 36 votes.

Here are the vote totals for 2011, contrasted with the 2008 numbers.

Rosemary Wallace, who topped the polls, received 1,973 votes (2,002 in 2008); Teri James, 1,790 (2,052); Gayle Martin, 1,655 (2,079); Dave Hall, 1,635 (1,937); Jack Arnold, 1,521 (1,955) and Storteboom 1,485 (1,849).

In 2008, there were 10 candidates for City council. This year, the votes were spread among 12 candidates. Former councillor Ted Schaffer got back in after a three-year absence, placing third with 1,750 votes.

There were also some fascinating results in the race for the five Langley Board of Education seats in the Township. Incumbent Wendy Johnson, a former principal, received 8,925 votes — far and away the most of any candidate for council or the board. She was the only one to come close to getting 50 per cent of the total vote.

Meanwhile, the two at the bottom of the 11-person race, Pamala-Rose Combs and Douglas Smuland, received 2,941 and 2,319 votes respectively.

Combs did almost no campaigning. She did not send The Times a photo, respond to our offer to post a video or bother to answer our two questions. I don’t believe she posted any signs either, although she did show up at two candidates’ meetings.

Smuland did campaign and put up a few signs. The ballot stated that he was a resident of Surrey, but he still received a substantial number of votes, even though non-residents rarely do well in Langley elections.