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Ana Bailão takes Ward 18 seat after bitter fight

Voters mark their ballot papers in the municipal election in Toronto on Monday.

Chris Young/Canadian Press

Ana Bailão will be the new councillor for Ward 18 (Davenport), but she didn't get there without a fight.

In a 12-candidate race with no incumbent (outgoing Ward 18 councillor Adam Giambrone decided not to run for re-election), Monday's election came down to an, at times, ugly fight between two candidates: Ms. Bailão, Mr. Giambrone's biggest rival in 2003, and Kevin Beaulieu, Mr. Giambrone's longtime assistant.

At her victory party at O Bola Café and Billiards on College Street, Ms. Bailão told several hundred supporters that the night's victory was only the beginning.

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"The reality is that tonight we're celebrating, but there's a lot of work ahead of us. ... Let's get to work," she said, as Queen's We Are the Champions played in the background.

As for Mr. Beaulieu, he appeared to take the loss in stride, telling the crowd at his election night party that "I called Ana to congratulate her on her success at the polls - and to remind her that this has always been about a better community and a better city."

Throughout election day, however, accusations had flown between the Bailão and Beaulieu camps about alleged violations of election rules. Unproven accusations including mishandled proxy voting, unapproved translators and unfair campaigning were all exchanged by day's end.

The most publicized disagreement was over allegations of campaigning at polling stations. In the early afternoon, a photo began to circulate on Twitter that appeared to show Ms. Bailão holding the door open at a polling station in the ward. Soon, another user reported seeing Mr. Giambrone handing out flyers in support of Mr. Beaulieu in front of another polling station.

"Ana was leaving the building and was holding the door open for people who were going in and out after her," said campaign volunteer Nicole Lippa-Gasparro. "The people that she spoke to were actually campaign volunteers who were going to scrutineer, not voters."

In response to the allegations against him, Mr. Giambrone said that "I haven't had flyers all day." He added that he had, however, been chatting with a member of the Beaulieu campaign outside the voting station on Rankin Crescent.

Ms. Bailão pushed past Mr. Beaulieu with 6,277 votes (43.8 per cent) over his 4,911 (34.2 per cent). With less than 10 percentage points between them, they illustrated the divide that has come to characterize the ward.

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In some respects, the two candidates have similar backgrounds. Both worked as assistants to Ward 18 councillors - Mr. Beaulieu to Mr. Giambrone, and Ms. Bailão to Mario Silva, the current Davenport MP and Mr. Giambrone's predecessor.

But in terms of public perception, Mr. Beaulieu was seen as an extension of Mr. Giambrone's tenure, while Ms. Bailão represented a movement away from it.

In fact, it was his connection to Mr. Giambrone that proved to be Mr. Beaulieu's biggest handicap, as the outgoing councillor's actions in the riding often saw him at loggerheads with his own constituents. He faced major opposition from the community during the narrowing of Lansdowne Avenue in 2007 and, more recently, removing on-street parking on Dundas Street West.

Sylvia Draper Fernandez, who owns PAS Accounting Services on Dundas West, says she felt alienated from city decisions while Mr. Giambrone was in the council seat and said she hoped the election would go to "anyone but" Mr. Beaulieu. In contrast, she said, Ms. Bailão "has already done a lot of work on" the Dundas West parking issue.

Ms. Bailão pointed to that dissatisfaction with Mr. Giambrone at her election night party. "People were really upset at the last seven years. What has happened to the area, people felt a little bit disconnected from City Hall."

Special to The Globe and Mail

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