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Voters cast their votes at the Parliament Street polling station in Toronto Monday, October 25, 2010.Darren Calabrese

Former police officer and political newcomer Jon Burnside was the surprise runner-up in a tight race in Ward 26, losing by only 405 votes to incumbent John Parker.

Muhammad Dhanani was expected to either defeat or come in second to Mr. Parker, as Mr. Dhanini had lost by only 214 votes in the 2006 election for Don Valley West. Instead, Mr. Dhanini came in third.

"I'm very proud of coming that close to an incumbent on my first run and not having had any political party help," Mr.Burnside said.

Mr. Parker is a former Conservative MPP who made his priority clamping down on city spending. He said he always voted against new taxes. He also endorsed Rob Ford for mayor.

Mr. Burnside, a former police officer, was concerned about high rates of crime in the community, traffic congestion and youth issues. He created and ran a hockey league for youth in Flemingdon and Thorncliffe for years.

The crowd at his campaign party in Leaside erupted in cheers as Mr. Burnside said: "Next time, we will take him out."

Mr. Dhanani, who is a first-generation immigrant, would have been the first Muslim city councillor had he won. Still, he chose not use his religion as a factor in his campaign.

"At the end of the day Torontonians are pretty great. He's a graduate of Yale... I think his qualifications and credentials speak for themselves," said supporter Ahmed Ali Baiq at Dhanani's campaign headquarters.

Affluent Leaside and low-income Flemingdon are both located in Ward 26, along with two other neighbourhoods: Wynford/Concord and Thorncliffe Park, and the ward plays features huge disparity in income between residents.

"You have such a huge population of various families comprised of all walks of life and they come to this country and they feel completely cut off from the rest of the city... (Our community needs) facilities where their kids and play and grow up and connect with each other," said Hina Ansari, communications director for Mr. Dhanani.

Upgrading facilities has been an issue for Mr. Parker, too.

"Despite the enormous commitment we're making to repairing deteriorating infrastructure, it's deteriorating faster than we are fixing it and that is a frightening reality," Mr. Parker said in October.

Special to The Globe and Mail