Former Ont. Liberal leader Steven Del Duca elected mayor of Vaughan by fewer than 1,000 votes

Former Ontario Transportation Minister and Ontario Liberal Party leader Steven Del Duca has been elected the new mayor of Vaughan.

“Thank you to the people of Vaughan for your confidence and faith. I am so so humbled with the support to be your next mayor of this incredible city,” Del Duca said in a victory speech.

He vowed an “ironclad commitment” to work as hard as he can to help give people a quality of life they deserve.

Del Duca narrowly won a mayoral race in which he largely campaigned on a promise to continue the legacy of popular outgoing mayor Mauricio Bevilacqua.

He beat out long-time Ward 4 Councillor Sandra Yeung-Racco by less than a thousand votes in a tighter-than expected race. With all polls reporting, Del Duca won the election by just 851 votes according to the unofficial tally.

“I want to thank Sandra in particular for running,” Del Duca said in a nod to his rival. “I want to thank her for running a vigorous campaign and I wish her all the very best.”

He also thanked his family and said he “wouldn’t have any success in this part of my life whatsoever or any part of my life if it wasn’t for the steadfast love and support” of his wife.

Despite the introduction of online voting for the first time in this election, voter turnout was abysmal at less than 27 per cent.

Bevilacqua all but anointed the mayor-elect as his successor several weeks after announcing that he would not be seeking another term himself. The two released a joint accord promising to focus on a number of bread-and butter issues such as keeping a respectful tone at city hall, delivering good value for taxpayers, relieving gridlock and doing more to preserve the environment.

Del Duca’s election as mayor hands a much-needed electoral win to the 49-year-old who came up short in his bid to defeat Premier Doug Ford in the provincial election in June and failed to win a seat in that election too.

He said Monday night that he looks forward to working with the new council to meet the challenges that the city faces.

“The work that we have ahead of us is considerable,” Del Duca said. “We are a city that will continue to grow and needs to grow. We need more good jobs. We need more sustainability. We need to fight traffic gridlock with everything that we have because it is literally undermining our quality of life.”

While he has recently been rivals with the premier, Del Duca told in the weeks ahead of the vote that municipal politics allows people the chance to “park partisanship at the door” and to work with people from all parties and levels of government to move things forward.

Del Duca, a lawyer by training, is married and has two daughters. He has been involved in politics since going to work for former MP Joe Volpe in his teens.

The city’s mayoral race was mostly quiet in a city sometimes known for its fiery local politics.

While Yeung-Racco slammed Bevilacqua’s open endorsement of Del Duca, others endorsed him too, including former councillor and MP Deb Schulte, who dropped out of the race because of health concerns.

Del Duca will now inherit a city that has changed substantially since Bevilacqua took office in 2011.

The city now is connected to Toronto with a subway extension to Vaughan Metropolitan Centre at Highway 7, with another subway extension into the city planned along Yonge Street from Finch Avenue to High Tech Road in Richmond Hill. It also has a hospital, a rapid bus line and mushrooming crop of new condo towers.

The challenge going forward, Bevilacqua told ahead of the election, will be figuring out how to accommodate thousands of new residents in the coming years while respecting existing ones. Crime was also cited as a concern in the election campaign, amid a rising trend of carjackings that has hit the GTA.

While Yeung-Racco fell short of her bid for the mayor’s office, another Racco did make it back to council; her husband Mario Racco was elected as a local and regional councillor.

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