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Rob Ford speaks to supporters after winning his seat on city council at mayoral candidate Doug Ford's election night headquarters in Toronto on Monday, October 27, 2014.Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press

After all the attention, the videos, the denials and the admissions, Rob Ford will return to city hall in the role in which he began – as the city councillor for a suburban neighbourhood with few allies at city hall.Toronto's larger-than-life-leader, now battling a rare form of cancer that forced him to abandon his re-election bid, watched the votes come in surrounded by family in his mother's home, the same spot he celebrated his ascent to the mayor's office four years ago.

This time, there was little joy.

There were cheers and hugs when the mayor easily won back his former seat on council. And there were pats on the back when nephew Michael Ford won a school board seat.

But the room was quiet as John Tory was declared the winner and his brother's bid to be mayor over.

Rob Ford jumped into his car alone and headed to a nearby banquet hall, greeting cheering supporters with an unscripted address as Ford Nation followers crowded the stage.

"The reason we do it is because of the people that are here," he said, his voice strong, his hair gone, the result of chemotherapy. "Folks we never, ever, ever give up."

Mr. Ford said he has to first take care of his health, but will be back at city hall holding Mr. Tory to his promises and looking ahead to the next election.

"I will continue to fight. I will continue to fight. Trust me. I'm just warming up," he said, adding later to The Toronto Sun that he plans to run for mayor again in 2018.

The mayor's mother, Diane Ford, said Ford Nation is not going anywhere, and her family are strong together.

"He built Ford Nation," she said of her youngest son, Rob. "We have had a real challenging year this year and it wasn't what any of us wanted. But I know for a fact we are still together, all of us."

Toronto has been through four years for the record books, a turbulent time ushered in by anger and dissatisfaction among voters, stoked by a garbage strike, a new tax on cars and a bike lane on a downtown thoroughfare that became the unlikely symbol for city hall's indifference to the needs of those who lived outside the downtown core.

Rob Ford – a lone-wolf councillor who got kicked out of a hockey game for hurling sexist insults and who praised the city's "Oriental" community because they "work like dogs," became the unlikely standard-bearer of that alienation. He tapped into that anger with laser-like precision, and racked up several wins in the early days of his tenure.

But within a year, the wheels started to come off.

Long before allegations of a drug video and the mayor's surprise admission that he used crack cocaine in office, Mr. Ford had lost the ability to muster the votes he needed to get his agenda through council. His first loss – a last-minute move by councillors to add back services to the city budget – was followed by what amounted to a council revolt over his transit plan, led by the councillor he had picked to lead his subway agenda.

He had few victories after that, his presence at city hall – or his lack of it – tracked by reporters who were left to hang around the elevator outside his office and peak through parking lot doors for his Escalade to figure out where the mayor was.

Mr. Ford's wins – a city budget that no longer relies on windfalls to balance, labour deals, contracting out garbage collection in parts of Toronto – were quickly forgotten in the scandals that followed, the crush of cameras, the foreign news outlets, the disgraced Olympic athlete and magician that beat a path to his office.

Mr. Ford had most of his authority taken away by council, but his bobblehead likeness could fetch hundreds and late-night television loved him. His stab at a comeback after two months in rehab was cut short by his cancer diagnosis.

Former deputy mayor Doug Holyday, who stood by Mr. Ford when the accusations of a crack video first surfaced, still figures Monday's election results could have been much different, but for all the mayor's "personal baggage."

"I don't think he would have been challenged by anyone substantial and the public would have been receptive to what had taken place," said Mr. Holyday, who left city hall to run for provincial politics before Mr. Ford admitted to his drug use and was reduced to a mayor in name only by council.

"All his after-hour activities, it undermined the whole process. Without that there wouldn't even be a mayor's race right now. He would have won hands down, if he was healthy."

City councillor Karen Stintz, who challenged Mr. Ford for the mayor's job before dropping out of the race in August, predicts as long as Mr. Ford has his health, he will be a political force in the city. Even as a city councillor he will command attention and a loyal following. If his health allows it, she does not rule out another run at the mayor's office in four years.

"The story is not over," she said.