Nick Di Nizio looks to unseat controversial incumbent Giorgio Mammoliti

This story was originally published on skedline.com on Oct. 22, 2014. 

He’s going up against one of the longest sitting members of Toronto City Council. But Nick Di Nizio is not afraid.

‘‘It’s going to be a slug out right until the end. And it might get dirty and it might get bad, but we are ready for that. We are ready and we are pumped,’’ said Di Nizio.

Four years ago, Di Nizio came closer to unseat Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti, who has held the seat in the York West riding since 1995, than anyone has in a long time. The final tally showed Mammoliti holding his seat after beating the challenger by 1,737 votes. The result nearly halved the councillor’s victory margin over Sandra Anthony in 2006. This year, Di Nizio, a long-time resident of the ward, is back for a re-match.

And the numbers suggest Di Nizio might have an even better chance this time.

According to a Forum poll released on Sept. 12, Mammoliti and Di Nizio are statistically tied, polling at 37 and 33 per cent respectively. But due to the small sample size of 214 voters there’s a large margin of error, which can break either way for the two candidates.

Di Nizio said he decided to run again after people in the ward asked him to and because the community needs what he calls ‘‘desperate change.’’ The York West riding is in need of transit relief and Di Nizio wants to see more busses on the streets. Di Nizio also wants to see improvement in the language services at City Hall to accommodate for all the people with different mother tongues than English. The father of two also wants more youth programs to keep the ward’s young people busy and away from crime.

But despite the numbers, Di Nizio is fighting an uphill battle in trying to convince the residents of Ward 7 he’s the best choice.

‘‘It’s very hard to beat an incumbent at a municipal level,’’ said Nelson Wiseman, an associate professor in the department of political science at the University of Toronto. ‘‘They have name recognition and they have resources that are accumulated by the virtue of being on the council. For example, they have an office subsidised by the city.’’

However, Coun. Mammoliti has been a very controversial figure at City Hall.

This summer, council voted to suspend three months of pay for the 53-year-old councillor after reports that Mammoliti had violated the code of conduct by pocketing $80,000 during a fundraiser in May of last year.

In September, Toronto Police started an investigation of the incident after the matter had been referred from city lawyers.

Coun. Mammoliti’s relationship with outgoing Mayor Rob Ford has also been controversial. In the early 2000s, Mammoliti and Ford were staunch enemies and then-Coun. Ford once called his colleague a ‘‘Gino boy.’’ The two later made up and Mammoliti became a member of Mayor Ford’s executive committee. But when news broke that the mayor had used drugs, Mammoliti once again distanced himself from Ford.

But the story does not end there.

When Rob Ford’s brother, Doug Ford, entered the mayoral race earlier this year after the mayor withdrew due to a cancer diagnosis, Coun. Mammoliti endorsed Doug Ford on live television, saying all of Ward 7 was behind the mayor’s brother.

‘‘Speaking politically, I believe Giorgio Mammoliti is the equivalent of a wounded animal right now. He has taken a lot of chances and he has failed miserably with his methods of protecting his own interest and that is coming out,’’ said Larry Perlman, one of eight candidates gunning for the seat in Ward 7. ‘‘With regards to the fundraiser, I was the first one to file the complaint.’’

Di Nizio said he anticipates a tough fight because of what happened at the very end of the last campaign.

On Election Day 2010, Di Nizio and his team had to chase people off who were handing out cards to vote for Mammoliti at some of the polling stations, which is against election rules.

‘‘If that happens [again], there’s going to be a revolt. And it’s going to be big and we are going to take it down. If they are going to play that game I better see police and security,’’ said Di Nizio.

At the same time, Di Nizio, who works in the financial services technology industry, is expecting something very similar on Oct. 27.

‘‘Very much so. That’s the M.O. [method of operation]. That’s the way it works. I can’t speak about other wards but that’s the way it happened in this ward,’’ said Di Nizio. ‘‘I expect it to be chaos. I expect it to be hell.’’

Coun. Mammoliti did not respond to Skedline.com’s repeated request for an interview.

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