The two incumbent trustees who led the charge to enact a policy regarding SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) topped the polls in Saturday’s civic election.
Ken Hamaguchi led the way with 17,196 votes and Sandra Nixon took 16,567 votes.
“I was curious to see how strong the support was and was very pleased to see voters send a message that they support SOGI,” Hamaguchi said.
SOGI had been a polarizing issue within the community since it was passed last June. In the months leading up to the election, one group of candidates, including Hamaguchi and Nixon, formed the Richmond Education Party (REP), which supports the policy, while another group formed the “Parents' Slate,” which opposes it.
Along with Hamaguchi and Nixon, political newcomer Heather Larson (REP) won a seat with 13, 258 votes as did incumbent Debbie Tablotney, who joined forces with REP in the late stages of the campaign.
“No policy is perfect, and we will keep checking in and seeing if there are problems. But, right now, kids are dealing with abusive behaviour that just can’t go on. We need this policy now,” said Hamaguchi.
He added that while the anti-SOGI movement was loud, a lot of its support came from outside of Richmond, which may explain why it didn’t translate into as many votes as some predicted.
“It’s people basically doing the circuit.”
The anti-SOGI faction saw their incumbent Alice S. Wong lose her seat, however she was replaced by Richard Lee, a member of the anti-SOGI “Parents' Slate.”
“It's very humbling, in the so-called democratic exercise like this. It’s very humbling because it’s not easy to earn (votes),” Lee told the Richmond News.
“Every vote has to be earned from the heart. If it does become official, having earned this chance, I’m very much looking forward to working for the people in Richmond with a humbling attitude.”
Lee will be the lone anti-SOGI voice as Richmond First winners, incumbent Donna Sargent and Norm Goldstein, who was a trustee prior to the last term, are both clear supporters of the SOGI policy.
She agrees with Hamaguchi that the board will need to work on an effective implementation of SOGI.
“A lot is at stake,” she said of this election. “We really want to make sure our district stays inclusive and welcoming.”
While pleased to be elected, Sargent was also "devasted" incumbent trustee Eric Yung (Richmond First) didn’t win another term.
“I’m devastated … He should be up there [among the trustees],” she said. “He’s worked really hard for the district.”
Hamaguchi, despite being on a different slate, echoed Sargent’s disappointment with losing Yung.
“He was a very good chair, but I think he got caught in the whole SOGI thing. He had a lot of pressure on him to take a strong stance against it, yet he supported it, so he was in a no-win situation.
He didn’t get the anti-SOGI vote but, because of perception, he may have lost some of the pro-SOGI people. It’s really too bad.”
Although Yung lost his position, Norm Goldstein squeezed in, meaning Richmond First will still have two people sitting on the school board.
Watching to see whether Goldstein would beat out Richmond Education Party’s Karina Reid was a nail-biting affair. He was ahead by only 70 votes when the second-to-last ballot box was being counted.
“It was like, I can't believe it. Up and down, up and down,” he said.
Alice S. Wong said that despite losing a seat on the board of education, her priorities are basically the same - to stay involved doing volunteer and community work.
Incumbent trustee Jonathan Ho, who voted “no” for the SOGI policy in June, ran for council this time but was not elected.
With files from Megan Devlin, Daisy Xiong and Kate Gardiner