Long before Adam Giambrone's mayoral bid collapsed beneath lies and seamy text messages, a dozen or so kingmakers gathered in a Toronto boardroom to crown a new prince.
It was Dec. 8 and John Laschinger, the seasoned campaign manager who propelled David Miller to victory, had invited the mayor's key backers to discuss who they might support in 2010.
"I'm looking for someone who has both character and judgment," Brian Topp, an NDP strategist and Miller loyalist, said, according to sources. "John Tory has the character but not the judgment. George Smitherman has the judgment but not the character."
When Mr. Laschinger passed a hat, asking the team to vote by secret ballot, the majority picked Mr. Giambrone.
Two months later, the handsome 32-year-old heir apparent has concluded he possesses neither the judgment nor the character to be mayor.
Mr. Giambrone withdrew from the race yesterday, having made his final decision about an hour before addressing the media, a source said.
His voice wavering and his red-rimmed eyes trained on his paper, he apologized for lying about multiple "intimate" relationships with women other than his long-time girlfriend, Sarah McQuarrie. The couple left the country together yesterday for a vacation.
"This searing experience has taught me, I hope permanently, that a public career of integrity cannot survive deceit in your private life," Mr. Giambrone said. "My mistakes have caused hurt to my partner Sarah, to my family, my friends, my supporters. To them, people I treated disrespectfully, I apologize."
The haste with which Mr. Giambrone decided to quit the race was apparent when he left the podium without finishing his statement. A staff member had left the second page on the printer, forcing Mr. Giambrone's executive assistant to return and read the rest.
Mr. Giambrone's campaign began to unravel when a local newspaper approached him with sex allegations from Kristen Lucas, 20, who produced text messages suggesting Mr. Giambrone was using Ms. McQuarrie as a political prop.
Ms. Lucas reportedly said she and the TTC chairman had sex on the couch in his City Hall office.
Mr. Giambrone contacted his campaign team about 3 p.m. Monday. He said the relationship was not sexual. His team crafted an apology admitting "text messages and conversations in public places only."
Mr. Laschinger and two senior campaign aides, Lecia Stewart and Robin Sears, pressured Mr. Giambrone Monday night and into Tuesday to tell them if there was more to the story. Mr. Giambrone said no. So Mr. Laschinger swung into damage control Tuesday, praising Mr. Giambrone for his "full and frank" apology. It wasn't until Tuesday evening that Mr. Giambrone admitted that he had concealed multiple dalliances with other women.
"The real moment occurred between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. [Tuesday]night," Ms. Stewart said. "So when you ask the question, what did John Laschinger know when he made those statements? He knew what he'd been told at that time."
Mr. Giambrone's downfall has profound implications for the Oct. 25 election.
It improves the fortunes of contenders George Smitherman and - especially - Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone, while leaving the race without a clear torchbearer for the Miller legacy.
"It will create a void of a certain kind," said John Cartwright, president of the Toronto and York Region Labour council.
Mr. Pantalone has already received calls inquiring about his campaign. "This kind of [progressive]message now really only has one champion, which is myself," Mr. Pantalone said. "I regret that [Mr. Giambrone's]stepping back had to happen this way. There's no joy in it."
Given the troubles in Mr. Giambrone's personal life and at the TTC, some councillors and mayoral contenders - including Mr. Smitherman - are calling on Mr. Giambrone to resign as chair.
"I think probably a wise thing would be to step down," Councillor Brian Ashton said.
Mr. Miller, in Ottawa yesterday, declined to comment on Mr. Giambrone's future on the TTC board.
With a report from Marcus Gee