Doug Ford is now leading Ford Nation in his own run for mayor of Toronto now that his brother, Rob Ford, has bowed out of the race.
The sudden change in the Fords’ fortunes came Friday — two days after the mayor went to hospital due to an abdominal tumour and minutes before the deadline for candidates to register to be on (or off) the ballot.
“He told me that he needed me to take the torch while he focuses on getting better,” Doug Ford said Friday night.
Ford, the mayor’s loudest and staunchest defender these past four years, delivered his first statement as a mayoral candidate flanked by family at the end of his mother’s driveway in Etobicoke.
Diane Ford — the Ford family matriarch — cried throughout the press conference as Doug Ford talked about his younger brother being sidelined by illness.
Rob Ford — who remains in Mount Sinai hospital undergoing medical tests — registered to run for his old Etobicoke North (Ward 2) city council seat Friday shortly after he withdrew from the mayor’s race.
Doug Ford starts his campaign with six weeks to go before Oct. 27 election and with the ability to spend the maximum of $1.3 million. None of the money already spent by the Rob Ford campaign counts towards Doug Ford’s spending limit.
Rob Ford’s campaign spokesman Jeff Silverstein filed the necessary documents around 30 minutes before the 2 p.m. deadline to sign up to run or withdraw from the municipal election.
Minutes earlier Silverstein — who remained silent as he filed the nomination papers — filed paperwork to withdraw Rob Ford from the mayor’s race and pulled Michael Ford, the mayor’s nephew, out of the Ward 2 council race. Michael Ford is now running for public school trustee in Ward 1.
After the flurry of paperwork amid a media frenzy, Rob Ford’s mayoral campaign issued a statement announcing he “could be facing a battle of my lifetime” and would be unable to continue his re-election bid.
“I’ve asked Doug to finish what we started together, so that all we’ve accomplished isn’t washed away,” Rob Ford said. “I have asked Doug to run to become the next Mayor of Toronto, because we need him. We cannot go backwards.”
A Forum Research poll released late Friday night, put John Tory still in the lead with 41%, Doug Ford with 34% and Olivia Chow in third with 19%.
Mayoral rivals John Tory and Olivia Chow reacted differently to the news. Chow offered her thoughts and prayers to the Ford family and refused to comment on Doug Ford’s politics while Tory came out swinging at what he called the “insult machine.”
Hours after what was dubbed “three-Ford monte” by one observer, a solemn Doug Ford delivered his statement.
“Well, folks, today I stand here with mixed emotions and a heavy heart,” he told reporters gathered along his mom’s quiet street. “First and foremost I am concerned about my brother and his family’s wellbeing.”
“We want to build on the progress that Rob has made. And so folks, I’ve officially entered this campaign,” he added.
Ford — who was serving as his brother’s campaign manager — said he’s not in “full campaign mode” yet.
He said he’ll be spending the next few days with the mayor who is in “relatively good spirits.”
“Rob was running for mayor 24 hours ago — maybe a little longer,” he said. “We were out for breakfast (Wednesday) and he was getting sharp pains. It just goes to show you folks how life can change in a second.”
Asked about his platform, Doug Ford said he will have similar themes to his brother’s campaign.
“Over the last four years I think Rob and I have shared the same values about respecting the taxpayers, making sure there is an accountable government and transparent government,” he said.
“That is what we’re going to continue to do for the people of Toronto.”
He dismissed a question that Doug Ford running for mayor was always the “Plan B” and denied it had been “in the works.”
“Things change rapidly in life and it has taken a little turn on us,” Ford said.
As the press conference ended, Ford had one final request.
“Just do a little prayer for Rob if you could,” he said.
— Files from Sam Pazzano