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Was that Jim or James Green?

Confusion over names in focus groups has Vision worried.

By Sam Cooper 15 Nov 2005 | TheTyee.ca

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Just days before Vancouver's new mayor is chosen, Vision Vancouver's campaign team is focusing on the man they fear could thwart Jim Green. James Green.

If the above sentence confused you, you can see Vision's problem.

Jim Green and James Green will be typed out side-to-side on the election ballot November 19, and Vision campaign planners fear enough Vision Vancouver Jim Green supporters will mistakenly vote for independent candidate James Green, that their man will lose.

Up until now, Vision has publicly ignored James Green, but he's been a big topic of debate in their war room. Some Vision Vancouver strategists say he's a vanity candidate at best, or a spoiler planted by interests linked to the NPA at worst, which the NPA denies. The insiders say it's been a strategic dilemma whether to publicly advertise about the differences between Jim Green and James Green, but until now they've chosen not to speak of the fear that has a name, not wanting to give James Green more name recognition or legitimacy.

But Vision pollsters have the race between Sam Sullivan and Jim Green running so close, they feel James Green can't be ignored anymore.

Turnout a big factor

"If we don't have a really good turnout it's going to be very tight, the difference could be one percent," Vision spokesman Clay Suddaby said, arguing that traditional NPA supporters in Vancouver West vote in similar numbers all the time, but the left needs a big bump from East Vancouver voters like they had in 2002. With no hot election issues this year, they fear the eastside bump isn't coming.

"Our concern is if turnout is low, if enough people accidentally choose James Green when they wanted to choose Jim Green, they will essentially be voting for Sam Sullivan," Suddaby said.

"This guy (James Green) came out of nowhere. There is a potential for people with English as a second language to be confused with the names."

And Suddaby says an election in Toronto shows precedent to confirm Vision's worries.

Suddaby said Toronto city councilor Peter Tabuns lost his seat by 800 votes in Toronto's last civic election when another candidate named Larry Tabins-supposedly a late coming spoiler backed by a special interest business group-came out of nowhere to win. Neither Tabuns, nor Tabins, could be contacted by press time.

Focus groups

Within the past few weeks, Vision has conducted focus group sessions trying to gauge the level of ballot name confusion and party strategists say the results confirmed their fears.

Vision campaign manager Ian Reid says Vision gathered 16 voters for a mock ballot test, with pre-voting information sessions and post-voting questions.

Reid says two people within the group who selected James Green later revealed they had been confused and meant to choose Jim Green. And Suddaby claimed scrutineers at advanced polling have reported some cases of voter confusion.

Asked why they haven't directly engaged James Green to expose him if he is a fake candidate in debates, Suddaby said James Green hasn't said enough to be engaged by Jim Green for the most part.

Suddaby also questioned whether a rival political interest is behind James Green securing a campaign bus this week, suggesting with documented financial problems in his past, Green lacks the personal financial backing to merit such expenses.

"He is out there in a rock star bus," Suddaby said. "I've worked on provincial campaigns and these things cost a lot. This is a guy who has had financial difficulties, and you have to wonder how he is paying for it."

The real deal?

But James Green bristles at suggestions he's anything but a legitimate candidate, and says Vision is trying to discredit him because he is taking votes from disgruntled COPE supporters and DTES constituents who think Jim Green abandoned them. He also said he has wide support within the Filipino community.

"I think I'm going to win," Green said, reached on his campaign bus after a stop in Chinatown. "The name thing is not the name of the game. For someone to say I'm running for vanity is crap. You don't run for public office and put your life under scrutiny for vanity."

James Green said he wouldn't comment on the financing behind his campaign bus, but says for Vision to look at some debt problems he had 15 years ago is petty and hypocritical, considering Jim Green was involved in money-losing ventures such as the Four Corners Bank in the DTES.

"For someone to talk about a little bus which might cost $300 to $400 a day and suggest there is some dark conspiracy behind me is a joke," Green said.

At the suggestion that the NPA put him up to running to spoil some Jim Green votes, James Green says he has no more regard for supporting Sam Sullivan's leadership potential than Jim Green's.

"Sam has very little to say in council. He talks about the fact that he is a quadriplegic a lot," James Green said. "How can he be mayor when he buys drugs for someone? And Jim Green is corrupt and is a twice-convicted draft dodger. I look like Cinderella compared to that."

Sam Cooper is covering municipal elections and other issues for The Tyee.  [Tyee]

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