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Rossi first to jump into race to replace Miller


As soon as the bell rang yesterday to kick off the Toronto election race, a contingent of fresh and familiar faces quickly put their names on the ballot for Oct. 25.

First among the 40 who signed up on day one of the municipal campaign, up from 24 on the first day of the 2006 contest, was former Liberal Party national director Rocco Rossi, bidding to succeed Mayor David Miller.

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"I will be able to put the team and the money in place to put a very competitive campaign on the ground," Mr. Rossi told reporters after filing his papers with city election officials at 8:30 a.m. yesterday. "The competition better bring their A game because that is what I am bringing," added Mr. Rossi, who has never run for elected office but was campaign manager to mayoral contender John Tory in his 2003 second-place finish to Mr. Miller.

Several perennial long-shots from past years also signed up yesterday, but all eyes are on the two most high-profile mayoral contenders in the wings.

Former Liberal Ontario deputy premier George Smitherman, who resigned his MPP seat on Sunday, may formally register as early as this week.

"I am in the head space of a candidate now," he said, promising an official move to join the race "quite soon."

Former Ontario Progressive Conservative party leader John Tory is expected to confirm later this month that he will take another shot at the city's top political job.

With no history of outsiders winning the mayoralty, several city hall veterans plan to put their names forward. Deputy mayor Joe Pantalone confirmed yesterday he will file his bid next week.

Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7, York West), who says a lottery and casino (both of which would require provincial approval) are answers to the city's fiscal woes, is set to add his name to the mayoralty roster today. But if his mayoral ambitions falter, Mr. Mammoliti does not rule out switching gears by the Sept. 10 deadline to retain his council seat.

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Freshman candidate Karen Sun, executive director of the Toronto chapter of the Chinese Canadian National Council, filed yesterday in her bid to succeed Mr. Pantalone in Ward 19 (Trinity-Spadina).

So far, she has one other challenger, Hïmy Syed, who came in fourth to Mr. Pantalone in 2006. Both Ms. Sun and Mr. Syed, executive director of the Canadian Muslim Civil Liberties Association, were contestants in the 2006 City Idol competition to boost civic interest in the municipal election that year.

"I knew I wanted to run somewhere downtown," said Ms. Sun, who lives in the ward. With her interest in environmental issues, she added, "I really wanted to run in a ward with some nice big parks in it, so Ward 19 is perfect."

Meanwhile, some familiar faces are lining up in hopes of landing new political roles.

Rob Davis, appointed to fill a trustee vacancy on the Toronto Catholic school board in 2008, filed yesterday to take on wily veteran Councillor Howard Moscoe in Ward 15 (Eglinton-Lawrence).

Mr. Davis, first elected in 1991 as a councillor in the former city of York, later served one term in 1997 on the council of the amalgamated city of Toronto. He then made two unsuccessful bids in 2000 and 2003.

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A card-carrying Conservative, Mr. Davis hopes to knock off the left-leaning Mr. Moscoe, one of the current mayor's most reliable allies on council.

Several would-be councillors, who ran and lost in 2006, also filed their papers yesterday.

Community activist Jem Cain is set for a rematch against incumbent Mark Grimes (Ward 6, Etobicoke-Lakeshore), who plans to run again.

In Ward 2, Etobicoke North, Cadigia Ali has entered the race in hopes of an upset over Councillor Rob Ford.

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