Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Thoughts on Adam Giambrone

The big story in Toronto today concerns mayoral candidate Adam Giambrone.

Last night, Giambrone admitted to having "an inappropriate relationship with a young woman." This revelation comes barely a week after Giambrone launched his mayoral campaign with his girlfriend Sarah McQuarrie by his side.

However, a 20-year old woman named Carrie Lucas has come forward and said she had a year long relationship with Giambrone and was apparently unaware of his relationship with McQuarrie until late last year. Lucas then became a woman scorned. She supplied The Toronto Star with a series of text messages between the two. The text messages leave one with the impression Giambrone only had McQuarrie by his side for "political" reasons. Lucas also claims the two had sexual encounters in Giambrone's office at City Hall. Giambrone is currently a city councillor and is also the Chairman of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC).

Now for his part, Giambrone said his interactions with Lucas "consisted of text messages and conversations in public places only." But why would one apologize for having an inappropriate relationship if the relationship was limited to text messages and conversations in public places? Frankly, I don't think a lot of people are going to buy that explanation. It doesn't pass the smell test.

Now before I go any further I ought to disclose that I met Giambrone on a couple of occasions when we were both active in the youth wing of the NDP. This happened nearly 15 years ago so my memories are somewhat hazy but I do recall having a conversation with him about Noam Chomsky. He liked Chomsky. I didn't and still don't.

In any case, Giambrone would enjoy a meteoric rise within the NDP. In 2001, he was elected President of the Federal NDP at the age of 24. As someone who had tried to run for the party's provincial executive at that same age with little to show for it I can say that was a remarkable achievement.

Now being President of the Federal NDP doesn't actually wield a lot of power. NDP Presidents generally preside over party convention, council and executive meetings. But Giambrone turned that position into something roughly equivalent of the DNC Chair and he became a public spokesman for the party especially during the transition period between Alexa McDonough and Jack Layton.

This national public profile would help him get elected to Toronto City Council in 2004 and elected to the Chairmanship of the TTC two years later. All of this before he turned 30. Giambrone, who turns 33 next month, is seeking to become the youngest mayor in the city's history. David Crombie was 36 when he was elected Toronto's mayor in 1972. But now a roadblock of his own making is obstructing his destiny.

So the $64.37 question is does Giambrone stay in the race? His campaign manager says he is. But are his supporters still with him? Will he still be able to raise money? If he does plan on staying in the race he will have to publicly comment sooner or later with McQuarrie by his side. He'll have to accept full responsibility and say something along the lines of, "I flat out screwed up." It might also be helpful if she were to say a kind word for him.

Giambrone isn't the first politician to be involved in a sex scandal and he won't be the last. These scandals also cut across ideological and partisan lines. Can you say Mark Sanford and John Edwards? There are several things that are working in Giambrone's favor. He's not married so there's no impending divorce proceedings. The same can't be said for Sanford and Edwards. And unlike Sanford and Edwards, Giambrone doesn't have children. It also doesn't appear that he has done anything illegal.

There is a case to be made that a public figure's private life ought to have no bearing on his public performance. Here's an interview Giambrone did about a year and a half ago on the TV Ontario (the Canadian equivalent of PBS) show The Agenda with Steve Paikin regarding the future of the TTC. I have to say Giambrone handles himself well with Paikin who is one of the best journalists in Canada. On the other hand, the TTC isn't exactly the most popular organization in Toronto and this certainly won't help increase its popularity.

It's also possible that he might need to do more to undertake a public mea culpa to repair his relationship with McQuarrie. In which case, he might need to not only abandon his mayoral ambitions but step down from the TTC and his council seat as well. Giambrone is young enough that he could withdraw from public life for a few years and then return older and wiser.

Here's a video Giambrone made a few days before he announced his intentions to run for mayor. At the conclusion of the video he says, "I'm Adam Giambrone and I'm ready." It might have been intended to be humorous but in light of what has occurred I cannot help but think it is a cry for help. If that is the case then time away from public scrutiny might be the best course of action because it would appear that Adam Giambrone isn't ready. At least not yet.

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