Karen Stintz, a leader of the right-leaning opposition at city hall and one of council's most vocal critics of Mayor David Miller, has bowed out of the unofficial race to replace him, The Globe and Mail has learned.
The Ward 16 councillor said former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader John Tory and current Deputy Premier George Smitherman, the next election's two most prominent-yet-undeclared contenders, have sucked the oxygen out of her fledgling campaign.
"It has definitely been a difficult decision," Ms. Stintz said. "I was excited about the opportunity to talk about the issues that are so important to the city."
Ms. Stintz said she felt stymied by municipal election rules that prohibit candidates from raising or spending money before they file their papers on Jan. 4, as well as the fence-sitting of Mr. Tory and Mr. Smitherman, whose high profiles give them the luxury of declaring their candidacy late in the game - possibly next spring or summer.
"It's a challenge to raise money and it's a challenge to get your name out," she said. "When bigger names with bigger profiles come into the picture, it makes it that much harder for everybody else."
In 2006, mayoral candidates were allowed to spend just over $1-million on their campaigns. Next year's limits won't be determined until early October.
"There's going to be a stiff entry fee for this contest and I think it's a given that people with pockets to dip into are going to be making strategic decisions about who they are going to back," said Myer Siemiatycki, professor of politics and public administration at Ryerson University
However, Prof. Siemiatycki said Mr. Miller provides the "working model" for a how a long-shot candidate can emerge triumphant when he or she has a professional campaign, a sense of authenticity and the ability to become a "galvanizing force" for public concerns and aspirations.
Ms. Stintz, who lives on Duplex Avenue with her husband and two children, ages 3 and 5, snatched the ward from long-time incumbent Anne Johnston in 2003 and handily won re-election in 2006. She has since built her public profile as a leader of the Responsible Government Group, a group of 11 right-leaning councillors who serve as unofficial opposition to Mr. Miller and the left at city hall.
She spent the past five months quietly assembling a campaign team led by Toronto lawyer and political organizer Rob Silver, director of Gerard Kennedy's 2006 federal Liberal leadership bid (and a contributor to The Globe and Mail).
She even road-tested campaign slogans at an August luncheon of the Economic Club of Canada. "The last three years of city council has been focused on bags, bottles and bicycles instead of the real needs of the city," she told a receptive crowd of about 160, which included Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, a constituent and friend.
A Tory insider said Monday there's "high interest," both in Mr. Hudak's office and the local riding association, for Ms. Stintz to run for the party in 2011 in Eglinton-Lawrence, held by Liberal Mike Colle.
Asked about provincial politics, Ms. Stintz would only say she's focused on the city and hasn't ruled out running for council next year. A handful of councillors are mulling a mayoral bid. Only Giorgio Mammoliti has declared he'll run.