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The Globe and Mail

Six former Rossi organizers join Smitherman campaign

Toronto mayoral candidate Rocco Rossi meets with the The Globe and Mail's editorial board Oct. 4, 2010.

Moe Doiron

Rocco Rossi's ex-campaign manager is among half a dozen former Rossi organizers who have formally endorsed George Smitherman for mayor.

The Smitherman campaign touted the pickups as a coup, but the Rossi camp was quick to dismiss the six defectors as disgruntled Liberals who were either fired or had left the campaign when Sachin Aggarwal lost his job as manager.

"We have two weeks to stop four years of chaos in Toronto," Mr. Aggarwal, a former deputy chief of staff to Michael Ignatieff, said in a release issued by Mr. Smitherman's campaign Tuesday. "I have great respect and admiration for Rocco, but we need to put our emotions and friendships aside, and unite behind a common banner to save our city."

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Mr. Aggarwal led the Rossi campaign until August, when he was replaced by Conservative Bernie Morton.

At the time, the Rossi campaign said Mr. Aggarwal had been shuffled to director of policy, but Mr. Morton confirmed Tuesday that Mr. Aggarwal declined the post and quit immediately.

The other defectors include Gary Anandasangaree, former campaign co-chair; Alexis Levine, former chair of the organization committee; Jon Kastikainen, former director of operations; Wes Davis, former director of tour and scheduling; and Darryl Tempest, former director of organization.

Bruce Davis, Mr. Smitherman's campaign manager, said none sought compensation and none will be paid.

"It smacks of desperation. It's misleading," Mr. Morton said. "All of these individuals have motive and they haven't been involved in the campaign either for many, many months or in any meaningful way."

He said Mr. Anandasangaree and Mr. Tempest departed in the spring, Mr. Kastikainen left around the same time as Mr. Aggarwal, and Mr. Davis was fired over the weekend for going golfing instead of taking part in a sign blitz.

Mr. Davis countered that he expected Mr. Morton to characterize the development, "in the least gracious, most harmful way possible."

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The former Rossi Liberals are the latest to jettison their old alliances and join the Smitherman campaign in recent weeks.

Journalist and author Peter C. Newman, an early backer of the former chief executive of the Heart and Stroke Foundation, urged Mr. Rossi to drop out in an urgent appeal issued on the weekend.

The letter, co-authored by former newspaper editor Ray Heard, said front-runner Rob Ford "must be stopped," and that Mr. Smitherman is best-positioned for the task.

Former mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson and her advisers John Tory Jr. and George Tory, sons of the former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader, abandoned their campaign to support Mr. Smitherman.

Veteran councillor Joe Mihevc defected from his natural progressive ally Joe Pantalone, also in a bid to halt Mr. Ford.

The last few weeks have been good to Mr. Rossi too. He won near-universal praise for his financial plan and has successfully doused speculation he might quit the race before Oct. 25.

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Mr. Rossi, speaking on Newstalk 1010 Tuesday, said the defections weren't a surprise, especially since most of the people on the list had left his campaign some time ago.

"We've had lots more people coming to the campaign since they left, so net positive," he said.

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