Councillors of all political stripes are welcoming news that Rob Ford would be eligible to run in a by-election if he fails to overturn the judgment that ordered him out of office earlier this week.
After confusion about the meaning of the bombshell conflict of interest ruling handed down by Justice Charles Hackland on Monday, the judge clarified Friday that Ford wouldn't be disqualified from running in a potential by-election next year.
While council won't decide whether to send voters back to the polls until a judge rules on Ford's appeal early next year, a mayoral race is already shaping up. Councillor Shelley Carroll, long rumoured to be eyeing the city's top job, finally announced Friday morning that she would run against Ford in a 2013 vote.
"My primary concern today is getting Ford out," she said in an interview.
Carroll claimed that it was Ford's conduct at an explosive council meeting Thursday night that convinced her to announce her bid. The final hours of the session devolved into a shouting match, with the mayor calling Councillor Adam Vaughan a "liar" and his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, apparently threatening two councillors that he would "whoop both your asses."
"I learned last night that we cannot continue with the mayor in the state of mind he's in, and his brother present and behaving like a thug," Carroll said Friday. "This ridiculousness must end, for the health of the city, for everyone's future."
The left wing councillor for Don Valley East predicts Ford's many missteps since taking office mean he would have a much tougher time winning votes now than he did in the 2010 election, which swept him to victory with 47 per cent of the vote.
"This time, he will be running not on a one-word slogan, but on people understanding that this is who he really is," she said.
Joe Mihevc, another councillor who opposes the mayor, says that while he hopes Ford is defeated, his participation in a by-election is essential for the city's democracy.
"It is one thing for the judiciary to say he should be removed from office, it's another thing for the electorate to say he is not our choice to lead the city," Mihevc said.
He also thinks a vote midway through the council term would be a perfect opportunity to reject what he calls the mayor's "politics of division."
"If he wins, he's got real power, and all power to him. And if he loses, then the city has rejected a certain kind of politics. The anti-community politics of Ford would be challenged, and I say, bring it on."
Councillor John Parker also thinks it's positive that Ford could run.
The mayor's job is "a political position and we live in a democracy where we expect the people to have the final say," he said.
Parker, a former Conservative MPP under Mike Harris, shares many of Ford's political views but has been alienated by the mayor's behaviour, which he says had led to a "farcical" state of affairs at City Hall. He believes that for Ford to have any chance of winning re-election he will have to show he's taken lessons from his mistakes.
"My advice to Ford at this point is to indicate that he has learned from this entire debacle and he is a changed man," Parker said.
Asked if he's seen any indication that Ford will modify his behaviour, Parker laughed and said, "Let's say, we all live with faith in the ultimate redemption of the human soul."
Parker would not say whether he would support Ford's bid for re-election.
Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday is one of the shrinking number of council members who are still vocally backing Ford. But even he believes that the mayor has allowed himself to become mired in controversy.
If he's re-elected, "he's got to change," Holyday said. "We can't continue the way we've been going."
The deputy mayor admits that other conservative candidates would attract fewer scandals, but Ford has a strong core of supporters and as long as he's in the race any other right-wing contender would only risk splitting the conservative vote and handing victory to the left.
"I think there's a good segment of the population who are going to stick with Rob Ford through thick and thin," Holyday said. "There probably are some people that would attract less controversy, it's a question of whether they could get themselves elected."
Ford has faced dozens of scandals since being elected two years ago, including allegations he used city staffers to help coach his football team, gave the middle finger to a woman and her child, and called the head of the TTC for a bus to pick-up his high school football team. He's currently being sued for libel and is facing an audit of his campaign finances.
Following Justice Hackland's ruling on Monday that ordered Ford to step down on December 10, it was initially disputed whether he would be eligible to enter a by-election. Confusion arose because Hackland wrote that the judgment didn't disqualify him from holding office "beyond the current term," and the current term of council ends in 2014.
But on Friday, Hackland deleted the words "beyond the current term" from his decision, indicating Ford could compete in a 2013 vote.
A by-election next year isn't yet assured. Ford has asked for a stay of the judgment against him and will appeal it in early January. If he loses, he must vacate his seat and council has 60 days to decide whether to call a by-election or appoint a caretaker mayor until 2014.
But there appears to broad agreement among most councillors that a by-election is preferable to having an un-elected person hold the office for close to two years.