Running for political office is something I truly admire.
It’s not easy to put yourself out there and face that kind of scrutiny. People - especially your opponents – will tear through your life looking for anything they can exploit.
So, mad respect for the people who subject themselves to this.
Then again, when you choose politics, you should also avoid self-inflicted wounds – I don’t have much sympathy when candidates make stupid blunders.
Case in point: Karen Wang, the now-former Liberal candidate in the Burnaby South byelection.
She showed troubling signs of terrible political judgment that made me wonder if she’s fit for public office. We'll never know as she has resigned as the candidate for the riding.
A prime example of her bad judgment was something I witnessed last Saturday night at Burnaby’s Michael J. Fox Theatre. The Burnaby Spring Festival Gala was taking place with nearly 200 performers putting on a show to raise money for the Burnaby Hospital Foundation.
There were a lot of federal, provincial and civic politicians on hand, and many of them were brought on stage to simply greet the crowd. But it was a decidedly non-political event. It was all about raising money for a worthy cause.
But Wang decided to take advantage of this event to do what I consider really tacky campaigning.
She stood at entrance to the theatre and was handing out campaign flyers to everyone who walked in the door. I walked in, and she thrust the flyer into my hand even though I didn’t ask for it. Skilled politicians go to fundraisers to be seen supporting causes, but they dial back the heavy campaigning because it comes across as sleazy.
Wang doesn’t understand this.
I wasn’t with the NOW during the 2017 provincial election, but spoke to the reporters covering it and they confirmed that Wang pulled a bit of a disappearing act during the campaign. She pulled a no-show at an all-candidates meeting – something exploited by eventual Burnaby-Deer Lake winner Anne Kang.
Wang also didn’t return the NOW’s phone calls during the campaign to comment on local issues. She did email answers to a questionnaire, but was little-seen during the campaign.
This is troubling behaviour for somebody running for public office.
It speaks to bad judgment when you won’t face the voters or the media.
Then on Tuesday, things got even worse for Wang. The publication StarMetro Vancouver published a sweet scoop (mad props to the great work by reporter Melanie Green and the rest of the team) about something Wang posted on WeChat on the weekend. Basically, Wang dragged the issue of race into the campaign by not only highlighting how she was the only Chinese-Canadian candidate, but “singling out” the race of her opponent, federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.
She has since deleted the post, but you can read the story here, although it’s behind a paywall.
The condemnation has rightly been swift over the post. Political commentator Warren Kinsella tweeted that “suggesting that your race is superior to your opponent’s race should disqualify you from running for Parliament.” He also called Wang a “race-baiting candidate.”
Instead of facing the music by doing an interview with the Star reporter, Wang took the coward’s way out and simply emailed a statement – likely written by a Liberal PR staffer.
I would have respected Wang more if she had done an interview, but like she showed during the provincial campaign, she has a habit of disappearing when things get tough.
Then, yesterday, Wang or somebody on her team tweeted a photo of her campaigning at the doorstep of an unnamed Indo-Canadian man. It might have been a coincidence, but it sure seemed like an attempt to make her seem friendly with Indo-Canadians after singling out Singh’s race.
That came across as tacky as well.
It’s a terrible start for the Liberals in Burnaby South, but that’s what happens when you choose a candidate who has shown she isn’t good at campaigning.
They only have themselves to blame. Now they must find a replacement or not bother at all.
Follow NOW editor Chris Campbell @shinebox44.