[attach]2276[/attach]The skies cleared just in time.
Like a scene out of a romantic comedy, George Smitherman and Sarah Thomson embraced at the corner of Church Street and The Esplanade. Then with the sun shining through breaking rain clouds, the two strolled together to his office to announce that she is throwing her support behind him after dropping out the race for mayor this morning.
“Over the weeks I’ve earned a lot of respect for you,” Thomson told Smitherman. “I trust Toronto in George’s hands.”
Despite just weeks ago having cited the e-health scandal in telling reporters Smitherman couldn’t be trusted to manage the city’s finances, Thomson said her perspective had changed.
“I saw his budget yesterday and it’s very good plan, so I can eat my words,” she said.
Thomson has consistently polled as the lowest of the front-runners over the last nine months. But warning the future of Toronto is at stake, she cited fear Rob Ford may be elected as one of the main reasons for supporting Smitherman now.
“Ford is going to basically destroy transit and he doesn’t care about the same social issues as George does,” said Thomson. “I’ve gotten to see the real George and I’ve gotten to see the real Ford and my pick is (Smitherman).”
However, she stopped short of calling for other candidates to support Smitherman, saying each must make his own decision.
Standing amid a sea of intermingling blue and purple campaign signs and a mob of reporters, Smitherman praised Thomson and thanked her for adding energy and a positive spirit to the mayoral race.
“I have admired sitting alongside you in all those debates and I’m going to be so, so privileged to work alongside you to build an even stronger Toronto,” Smitherman said.
Taking limited questions form the media, neither candidate spoke about what role Thomson would play going forward in the campaign, although Smitherman did say he hoped both their volunteers would think of themselves as part of “our team.”
Thomson was also mum on her reasons for supporting Smitherman instead of either Joe Pantalone or Rocco Rossi.
Thomson likely threw her support where she thought it could make a difference, political commentator Patrick Gossage said in a phone interview with the Town Crier hours after Thomson announced she was leaving the race. Whether it can put Smitherman over the top is anyone’s guess.
“She’s got a pretty loyal base of people, “ Gossage said. “It’s not huge, but it’s loyal.”
Earlier this month, Rob Ford soared ahead of his competition in the polls but according to recent reports, Smitherman has been steadily closing that gap.
While the fate of the four remaining front-runners in the mayoral race remains unknown until election day, there’s no question Thomson has raised her profile tremendously in Toronto.
“I don’t think we’ve seen the last of her in politics,” Gossage said.
Thomson’s name will remain on the ballot. The last day to officially withdraw from the race was Sept. 10.
—With files from Karolyn Coorsh