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Saint John, N.B. mayor’s re-election about-face ‘unexpected’

Click to play video: 'Don Darling not running for re-election' Don Darling not running for re-election
Don Darling says he’s taking his name off the ballot only a month after he said he planned to run for re-election. Travis Fortnum has more. – Mar 11, 2020

Saint John, N.B., Mayor Don Darling shocked the city with the announcement that he won’t be seeking re-election.

Ward 3 Councillor David Hickey says there was no internal discussion or consultation before Darling posted online he was out.

READ MORE: Saint John Mayor Don Darling announces he will not seek another term

“This was certainly an unexpected one for me,” Hickey says.

In February, Darling said he would run for a second term in this spring’s municipal election, stating in a Facebook Live that “there is more to do.”

In a blog post-Wednesday, though, he says “something has not been right for [him]” since making that announcement.

Don Darling has been the Mayor of Saint John since 2016.

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Darling’s predecessor in the mayor’s office, Mel Norton, says the job brings a completely unique set of challenges, including a level of recognition and responsibility that means you’re always on the clock.

Mel Norton served as Mayor of Saint John from 2012 – 2016. Travis Fortnum / Global News

“As soon as you step out your front door you’re with your constituents,” says Norton, “and most of your constituents are going to be supporting you — some of them are going to be doing the best they can that day and have challenges.

“Some days you can help them, others the best you can do is have an empathetic ear.”

Norton served a single term before opting not to seek re-election in 2016.

He wouldn’t immediately rule out running again this year.

“I’ve learned some time ago to never say never,” he says. “I never like to rule out possibilities.”

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Neither would Hickey.

“It’s something I might consider along the line,” he says, “but not right now.”

Travis Fortnum / Global News
Click to play video: 'What can be learned from the online mistakes of candidates in the Nova Scotia 2017 election' What can be learned from the online mistakes of candidates in the Nova Scotia 2017 election
What can be learned from the online mistakes of candidates in the Nova Scotia 2017 election – May 17, 2017

Both men are hoping anyone considering a run for the seat is able to navigate its challenges.

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Norton says one of the greatest challenges of the position is finding common ground.

“Everybody wants the same thing at the most basic level,” he says. “Everyone wants to build a great community.”

Darling has been outspoken about the stress he’s faced trying to do just that.

READ MORE: Saint John mayor says he thought about quitting in Facebook post

In the fall, he took to social media to express that he’d even had thoughts of quitting due to “threats, insults, bullying” – mostly experienced online.

“Probably every politician since the beginning of time has to have the hide of a rhinoceros,” Norton says.

The municipal election is set for May 11.

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