Speculation is mounting that Ward 18 Toronto City Councillor Ana Bailao will throw her hat in the ring for the provincial Liberals come the next election. That has to make Davenport MPP Jonah Schein and the NDP riding association very nervous. Schein rode the coattails of Andrew Cash to an improbable victory last time around, taking Davenport for the NDP. It looked like Davenport had permanently swung from red to orange. But Liberal Ana Bailao had already snatched the council seat known as Davenport South, held for years by dipper stalwart Adam Giambrone. Other than predictably grabbing the bulk of the Portugese vote, she had also converted a significant portion of the anglo yuppies and young families who had been a base of support for Giambrone, many of whom would subsequently vote for Cash and Schein. At first, Bailao jumped on the Ford bandwagon like many of her fellow centrists. But as she saw the political winds shift, she wisely abandoned the right and positioned herself as one of the moderate middle. At the same time, she impressed many people, even some progressives, with her competent performance on the Affordable Housing committee. If not for her drunk driving conviction on the way back from being lobbied by casino toadies, she would likely have been a rising municipal star. Since then, she has cast some questionable votes, including support for the Scarborough subway. But as a centrist, this was hardly surprising and probably not perceived as the kind of cynical political opportrunism and cowardice as, for example, Joe Mihevc's about face on the subway issue. She appears to be well liked in Ward 18 and will easily coast to re-election in October.
Although city councillors of course have no formal party affiliation, Bailao is a former assistant of Mario Silva and is almost certainly a Liberal. And her success and popularity in Davenport South means that she is an extremely attractive candidate in a provincial election where a huge portion of the voters in Davenport North are Portugese and will almost certainly support Bailao if she runs provincially. Many of them stayed home the last time around which contributed to Schein's victory (though the talented Jonah, who lacks Cash's charisma and natural stage presence, worked extremely hard and has to be given due credit for his electoral miracle.)
The demographics of Davenport have undeniably changed over the last decade, though the unlikely victory of two Dippers provincially and federally has as much to do with Andrew Cash's incredibly hard work in the months and months that he campaigned door to door long before the election was called, often with his friend Schein at his side. Since then, Schein has largely failed to establish his own profile. Instead, he has practically been joined at the hip with Cash, appearing at events together and championing many of the same causes such as Clean Trains. Schein has also failed to carve a niche for himself in the provincial NDP. With his background as a progressive community activist, many had expected him to act as a voice for the poor and marginalized, positioning himself on the left of the party where Cheri Dinovo had resided before she joined the leadership. Instead, he has largely toed the line of Andrea Horwath and remained silent on many of the issues that the party has relegated to the backburner for fear of dredging up the socialist ghosts of the NDP's past. That's not to say he's ineffective. He and Andrew Cash have been fantastic on local issues and here's hoping that Davenport will remain permanently orange. But while Cash's seat is likely safe, Schein is definitely vulnerable against the right Liberal opposition candidate. Enter Bailao.
Of course, the weaselly Ward 17 city councillor Cesar Palacio is almost certainly about to be unseated in Davenport North by Alejandra Bravo who will finally prevail in her third attempt. A longtime Liberal, he may decide to throw his hat in the race once he is unemployed. If that happens, Schein -- his former Ward 17 opponent -- will easily beat him with strong support in Davenport South. If an election is called before then, however, there will be strong pressure on Bailao to run provincially and take advantage of her popularity in the south to give Jonah a run for his money and guarantee a tight race.
Should be interesting.