It’s not something you see every day in an election, but on Friday, Edmonton mayoral candidate Malik Chukwudi said he’s dropping out of the race to throw his support behind his competitor, Mike Nickel.
“He sees exactly what I see inside the city of Edmonton. He knows we can do better,” Nickel said.
“So he decided to come on our campaign because he knows we’re the ones who are going to get it done.”
Chukwudi initially told Global News he would take part in an interview, but then did not.
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He’s not the first candidate to endorse Nickel, however. Nearly two months ago, Coun. Jon Dziadyk, who is seeking re-election himself, was at a joint news conference with Nickel where they announced they were supporting one another.
Throughout the course of the campaign, candidates Tarcy Schindelka and Tricia Velthuizen have gone doorknocking with Nickel.
Ali Haymour, an Alberta sheriff running in Ward Anirniq, has endorsed Nickel and also been endorsed by him.
“I think we have similar goals and platforms, and it’s all about co-operation. I think we can work well together,” Haymour said.
Global News asked Haymour if he’s concerned about how his endorsement might impact his relationship with another mayor if Nickel is unsuccessful.
“If the next mayor wants to keep the status quo, we are going to be butting heads,” Haymour said. “But if he’s willing to listen and work together, I’m willing to work together with anyone, and I will work well.”
Almost one year ago, Nickel shared a post by Ward Métis candidate Caroline Matthews and said he was “hearing great things about Caroline Matthews!” before directing his followers to her website.
“He made a nice comment about me and I said, ‘Thank you,'” Matthews said.
But she added that she never sought out support from Nickel, and isn’t endorsing anyone else.
“I am running an independent campaign and I pride myself on that, because I’m here to actually represent the residents,” Matthews said.
“There are many issues in our ward that need to be addressed, and by being an independent voice, it allows me to represent the residents and ask the questions they want to have asked.”
Political analyst John Brennan described Nickel’s strategy as unusual. He noted this is the third time Nickel has tried to win the mayor’s seat and said he is doing everything he can to get votes.
“He is endorsing candidates that he thinks are similar to him ideologically,” Brennan said.
“People he thinks, if they got elected, he could work with. And of course, he wants their endorsement back because he wants all the support he can muster.”
Nickel said candidates have been approaching him.
“I have candidates who come in my door and basically outline their platform, and if it aligns with ours, we just ask if they want our endorsement — if it matters to them,” he said.
“If we get along, (if) we agree on the big issues, then they can have it.”
Nickel was adamant he is not forming a team or setting up a voting block.
“These people have common sense and that’s all we’re selling here,” he said.
“There’s no guarantee they’re going to agree with me on any given day, but that’s not what I’m looking for here.”
Brennan said he believes Nickel won’t gain a lot from the endorsement of Chukwudi, given his low profile, but said Dziadyk’s name recognition and support as a councillor in north Edmonton is valuable.
Still, he said it’s a risky move.
“There’s no guarantee by endorsing Mike Nickel that that’s going to help you electorally. Jon Dziadyk is taking a big gamble there,” Brennan said.
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Global News reached out to a number of Edmonton’s other mayoral hopefuls to get their takes on endorsing other candidates.
“The mayor represents one vote on council, so that person must be able to collaborate and work with the other members of council,” read a statement from Amarjeet Sohi.
“Endorsements run the risk of creating an us-versus-them mentality on council, which I believe is counterproductive.”
“We’re focused on just our campaign and won’t be endorsing any council candidates,” Cheryll Watson wrote in an email.
“We hope to see a diverse and equitable council elected on Oct. 18.”
Kim Krushell said this is something she is really concerned about, and noted that she committed to running independently in August.
“I have not and will not endorse any other candidates running for city council,” she said.
“I believe that it is the duty of all mayoral candidates to give Edmonton voters the straight goods. No backroom deals, no smoke and mirrors, no undeclared allegiances or obligations.”
Michael Oshry expressed a similar train of thought.
“I have not endorsed any candidates nor will I,” he said.
“City council works best when people with different perspectives, and no political affiliations, work together to make the best possible decisions for the city of Edmonton.”
In an email, Edmonton Elections said that because Chukwudi is withdrawing past the Sept. 22 deadline, his name will still appear on the ballot.
“Any votes cast for him will be counted and reported as part of the election results,” spokesperson Suzzette Mellado said.
Edmonton’s municipal election is on Oct. 18, with advance polls beginning Oct. 4.