In ‘Doc’ we trust

Bonnie Belec
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St. John’s re-elects Dennis O’Keefe and chooses all-male council

The wait for the results on election night in the city of St. John’s seemed to last almost as long as the campaign.

Mayor Dennis O’Keefe reacts to being re-elected as mayor of St. John’s at his home Tuesday night. — Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

But after the votes were tallied, two hours behind the closing of the polls, the biggest surprise seemed to be the number of votes mayoral candidate Sheilagh O’Leary lost to incumbent Dennis O’Keefe.

Around 10:30 p.m. at the Bella Vista on Torbay Road, where a crowd of O’Leary supporters gathered the room hushed when a woman took to the stage and said the vote was in — “Dennis O’Keefe has been re-elected with 20,047 votes, Sheilagh O’Leary with 14,735 and Geoff Chaulk 589,” she said to the silent crowd who, moments before, had been dancing and singing in front of the stage.

When the numbers were announced, supporters muttered under their breath and the upbeat emotions that had earlier filled the room were replaced with feelings of disappointment.

When she was first elected to council in 2009, O’Leary polled the highest votes of all candidates — more than 24,000.

O’Keefe, surrounded by his friends, family and supporters in his St. John’s home, said the wait for results created some tense moments.

“Yes, I have to say, when the delay went on for an hour or two, you never know — when you have a delay and lineups at the polls, the natural question is who is the line up for, me or my competitors and that led to a bit of anxiety,” he said.

“But I felt confident in the meantime. There was a bit of interpretation, but I felt we ran a good campaign and in the end it turned out very well, I must say. So I’m delighted that people have seen fit to give my leadership and myself a vote of confidence and another four years in office.”

Chaulk, the other mayoral candidate, couldn’t be reached for comment.

As O’Leary, a councillor-at-large for the past four years, took to the stage, she was greeted with loud applause and whistles. She was accompanied by her young son, Owen, who goofed around by his mother’s side as she gave her concession speech.

“He likes to talk more than I do and that’s saying something,” O’Leary said, laughing.

“Obviously, we didn’t get the results that we wanted, but we worked our guts out on this campaign. I worked my guts out on this campaign because I know we deserve a better city,” O’Leary said, as her supporters shouted in agreement.

She said her team put forward a fresh perspective on city life based on respect for each other, smart development and creating safe, flourishing neighbourhoods. She said she will continue to pursue that through the new council.

While O’Leary congratulated O’Keefe and the new council, and was glad to see some new young faces joining, she was disappointed there were no women elected.

For the first time in more than 20 years, St. John’s council will not have any female representation with the loss of O’Leary and the retirements of Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff and Coun. Debbie Hanlon.

“I personally think it’s disgraceful to have no women represented on council. It’s a travesty, living in a society of equal rights, equal times. To not have a woman’s voice at the council table will be shameful. Considering we are 52 per cent of the population and to have zero per cent on council is just wrong,” she said, acknowledging only five women were candidates in the election.

The others were Jennifer McCreath, who ran for deputy mayor, councillor-at-large candidate Deanne Stapleton, Ward 4 candidate Tracy Holmes and Ward 3 candidate Sarah Colborne Penney.

O’Keefe said he would have liked to see more young women running for office, and it’s unfortunate none of the ones who did were successful.

“Hopefully, it will happen in the future, because we need more female representation and more young people on council,” he said.

Around 8:30 p.m., when the results were expected, there were media reports the ballots were delayed getting to city hall due to people registering late in two of the five wards. Election workers couldn’t keep up.  

“The city is very pleased with the voter turnout we had throughout the vote-by-mail period and today at the satellite drop off centres, which experienced particularly high voter turnout late in the evening. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our election workers, the residents who voted and all of the candidates for offering themselves for public office. It was a longer night than we had anticipated, but we are always pleased when people take part in the electoral system,” the city’s communications department said in a statement when asked what had happened.

The new St. John’s council, which will be sworn in during the first week in October, is made up of O’Keefe, Deputy Mayor Ron Ellsworth, Ward 1 Coun. Danny Breen who was acclaimed, Ward 2 Coun. Jonathan Galgay, Ward 3 Coun. Bruce Tilley, Ward 4 Coun. Bernard Davis, Ward 5 Coun. Wally Collins and councillors-at-large Tom Hann, Sandy Hickman, Dave Lane and Art Puddister.

“I feel absolutely terrific,” said O’Keefe, “and I’m glad people have had confidence in my leadership over the past years, and the vote to continue on with the prosperity and growth we have been experiencing.”

According to the city there was a 53 per cent voter turnout in Tuesday’s election.

Organizations: Bella Vista

Geographic location: Torbay Road

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Recent comments

  • wayne
    September 27, 2013 - 05:16

    god help us I think o'keefe is worst mayor in last 50 years tonite when I go to bed I will pray that when I awaken it will be sept/2017 and shelagh will be mayor ron ellsworth its up to you to watch over o'keefe

  • John Paul
    September 25, 2013 - 22:12

    Very disappointed in the election results especially for Mayor. The headlines should have read Dump Doc not in doc we trust. To those who haven't had the displeasure of dealing with him are in for a surprise. Arrogant condescending to name just a few. Transparency at City Hall forget it! The recycled politicians have come back to the public trough Puddister for instance stands out in my mind hat did he ever do during his last tenure, Ellsworth looked as if he tried. I hope O'Keefe keeps his mouth shut in the public chamber about all his pensions he's collecting, it's offensive to those of us who are barely getting by. Nothing to get excited about what's accommodating the bunker on New Gower Street for the next four years.

  • downtown home owner
    September 25, 2013 - 22:03

    Well now we can get some building permits put through without some hippies complaining they don't have a grassy knoll for thier dogs to poop on ...Down the street where I live , we were going to get a Hilton Hotel built but some quackoes said they needed the green space for thier dogs to poop on ..FACT !!!..good thing they got turned down and the hotel is a go !!! My property value has increased 300% in last 10 years !! I am a happy taxpayer !

  • Progressive
    September 25, 2013 - 16:41

    So what if there are no women on Council! This is 2013 and in true progressive style, we should not hire (or vote) based on what isin someone's pants. The most qualified person should get the job, no questions asked. To say that women bring a different perspective is sexist as it implies something about all women. To say that you need a woman to address women's issues is just like saying that a psychiatrist needs to a a patient in order to do his/her job. Time to do away with this old fashion thinking.

  • G.P.
    September 25, 2013 - 13:55

    Well filly, too bad I guess you'll have to move. Try Mt. Pearl, they deserve someone like you

    • Filly
      September 27, 2013 - 08:12

      Someone like me? You mean someone who is sick of the status quo? Someone like you needs to go in a home.

  • Nancy
    September 25, 2013 - 11:06

    Five women ran in this election. You forgot to mention Tracy Holmes, who ran in Ward 4.

  • Trisha
    September 25, 2013 - 10:23

    There are o women voted in, because Dunderdale has taken women back in time, instead of helping us move forward. She has given women a bad name!

    • Adam
      September 25, 2013 - 14:43

      Sadly, I think you may be right. I have long thought that the growing disgust with Dunderdale's leadership would create a problem for aspiring female politicians. Because of it fewer will run and fewer will get elected. It isn't fair and it makes no sense, but it is no doubt part of the public psyche. The other problem that exists - and has always existed - is that fewer women vote for women candidates than do men. In other words, women are their own worst enemies. A breakdown of voting by gender would prove interesting reading.

    • Tim Jamison
      September 26, 2013 - 11:03

      That's the most ridiculous, totally thoughtless comment I've ever seen. There are no women because the words democracy and meritocracy are so closely linked. None showed merit, so none of them won. Sheila, for example. She's a rabble rouser and a waste of space

  • Rod B
    September 25, 2013 - 09:42

    Tell me Sheilagh O’Leary, are you bitter? It sure sounds like you are. How is it disgraceful and a travesty when 52% of the population (females) didn't vote a female into office?

  • logy bay
    September 25, 2013 - 09:29

    I guess the people didn't want to listen to Sheilagh O'leary BS anymore. Perhaps she is the reason why no women got elected.

  • Barry
    September 25, 2013 - 09:29

    Not have Sheila O'Leary on council is the best thing to happen to our city in years, now we can move forward and grow.

  • Observer
    September 25, 2013 - 09:27

    The endorsement of Sheilagh O'Leary for Mayor of St. John's by NDP leader Tom Mulcair was the kiss of death . The proof is plain to see in her dismal vote numbers. People knew that the last thing we needed was a left wing socialist in charge of the city.

  • WIld Rose
    September 25, 2013 - 08:26

    Now we can get the city moving without all those hippies and trouble makers.

    • Filly
      September 25, 2013 - 08:37

      Spoken like a true fossil. You must be a supporter of Doc and the old guard. Do you yell at clouds also

    • Chantal
      September 25, 2013 - 09:14

      You mean citizens?

  • Steve
    September 25, 2013 - 08:20

    The people have spoken

  • Right Wild
    September 25, 2013 - 08:03

    Way to go Doc. Some sour grapes on the go from the O'Leary camp and the NDP machine that tried their best but couldn't get their candidate in. You're next out the door NDP.

  • Filly
    September 25, 2013 - 07:34

    Doc is in the charge for another 4 years? Makes me want to move.

    • tom
      September 25, 2013 - 08:09

      Why is it disgraceful that the people spoke? Why is it discgraceful that there are no women on concil? I guess the people felt that the women who did run were not qualifed and they did not want them. We cant help it if women choose not to run. I guess you, Debbie Hanlon and the arts crowd, the granola crowd that is, the real arts crowd manage without assistance all the time, will have to figure out another way to annoy the residents with your backwards thoughts and never ending bumming of money for your cash loosing endevours. Glad to see that St. Johns has smartened up a bit. No Duff running again so maybe now you can get stuff built.

    • Robert
      September 25, 2013 - 14:18

      Great times to move but please close the door as you leave!

  • B
    September 25, 2013 - 07:28

    Disappointed with the Municipal election results, would very much have liked to see what Sheilagh would have done for the city as mayor. My experience with Mr. O'keefe have not been good. As a senior I e-mailed him with concerns some time ago and never received a response from him or his staff. (how's that for a person elected by the public) St. John's can now look forward to many, many more condos and many, many more hi-rises. Goodbye city of Legends.

  • Joe Scanlon
    September 25, 2013 - 07:26

    Congratulations to the newly elected council. Not having Sheila O'Leary on council, however, is an enormous loss to the city.

    • James
      September 25, 2013 - 08:57

      I agree Joe. Think she went for the brass ring a bit too early. Should have tried for another term as councilor. Yes - a big loss for the city and the council elect. I expect she will go up against Tom Osbourne in 2015 for the NDP

  • Jack
    September 25, 2013 - 07:16

    Ms.O'Leary needs to tone it down about the lack of females in the new council.Hey Sheila,some females did run and they lost. There is no great conspiracy here just democracy in action. Did you expect them to just throw in a few token females who weren't elected? That's how the system works.You win some and you lose some.