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David Soknacki takes part in a debate organized by FilmOntario on Sept 3 2014. (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
David Soknacki takes part in a debate organized by FilmOntario on Sept 3 2014. (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Soknacki drops out of Toronto mayoral race Add to ...

Former Toronto budget chief David Soknacki has dropped out of the mayoral race, with no mention of throwing his support behind any other candidate.

Mr. Soknacki, who first launched his campaign in January but has seen his support stagnate in the single digits, made the announcement Tuesday night in a statement ahead of a speech he gave to volunteers in downtown Toronto. The event was timed to coincide with his 60th birthday.

“Ours has been one of the most positive, the most idea-driven and the most idealistic Toronto mayoral campaigns in recent memory,” Mr. Soknacki’s statement said.

“However, today I received confirmation of what I suspected for days: while my support is growing, it simply is not growing quickly enough to make any positive difference to the outcome on election day.”

After a mayoral debate last Thursday, Mr. Soknacki acknowledged he was reconsidering his candidacy in light of recent polls, including a Nanos Research poll showing his support at 3 per cent. As recently as Monday, the Soknacki campaign denied that the candidate was planning on dropping out, despite rampant rumours.

As a Scarborough councillor between 1994 and 2006, Mr. Soknacki served as a budget chief under David Miller. He later founded a spice company based in Markham.

And while he lacked the celebrity of his leading rivals, the candidate earned a loyal following early on for his policy-driven campaign, and quirky, sometimes tongue-in-cheek approach. His ad campaigns, created by his youthful group of volunteers, relied heavily on social media and memes to spread his policy messages.

“I am incredibly grateful for the loyal and strong support I’ve received so far,” Mr. Soknacki said.

And though Mr. Soknacki’s statement makes no mention of endorsing a fellow candidate, he did cite as a reason for dropping out the importance of ensuring that Mayor Rob Ford is not re-elected.

“While we fought this as a campaign of ideas, we’ve also heard from voters who’ve told us that removing Mayor Ford is their top priority,” the statement said.

Mr. Soknacki’s leading competitors, who took part in a debate Tuesday evening without him, were quick to offer their well wishes.

Front-runner John Tory called Mr. Soknacki’s exit from the race “regretful” – adding that he’d called him earlier Tuesday to wish him a happy birthday.

“I want you to know I respect this man,” he said. “He and I had more conversations between two candidates than probably I’ve had with others because he’s the kind of person you can have a conversation with.”

And Olivia Chow said she, too, would miss Mr. Soknacki on the campaign trail, saying he added “civility” and “intelligence.”

She also appealed directly to his supporters, saying the two shared similar “progressive” values. In particular, she pointed to their similar stand on scrapping plans for a Scarborough subway in favour of light-rail transit.

Though Mr. Ford acknowledged he and Mr. Soknacki “weren’t really on the same page,” he said he wishes him the best.

“Outside of politics, he’s a nice guy,” he said. “I wish him the best and that’s all I can say.”

Mr. Soknacki was not the only mayoral candidate to drop out of the race Tuesday. Sarah Thomson, who also ran for the mayoralty in 2010, announced she was dropping her bid. She will instead run as a city council candidate in Ward 20.

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