TORONTO (AP) — Toronto Mayor Rob Ford withdrew his re-election bid Friday as he seeks treatment for a tumor in his abdomen, ending a campaign he had pursued despite a stint in rehab and persistent calls for him to quit amid drug and alcohol scandals. But he announced his brother would run in his place, saying “we cannot go backwards.”
Rob Ford will instead seek a seat on the City Council, after a nephew withdrew his candidacy.
“My heart is heavy when I tell you that I’m unable to continue my campaign for re-election as your mayor,” Ford said in a statement. “I have asked Doug to run to become the next Mayor of Toronto, because we need him. We cannot go backwards.”
Doug Ford, a city councilor who had been the conservative mayor’s campaign manager, submitted his papers to run for mayor in his brother’s place. He will face two other major candidates in the Oct. 27 election.
Ford’s decision came two days after he was hospitalized and the tumor was discovered. Biopsy results won’t be back for a week and a definitive diagnosis is pending.
“As many of you know I’ve been dealing with a serious medical issue, the details of which are unknown. But I know that with the love and support of my family, I will get through this,” Ford said in a statement.
The mayor will now seek a seat representing a district in his home suburb of Etobicoke, where his brash everyman style and conservative fiscal policies first gained a faithful following that became known as Ford Nation.
The international spotlight first fell on Ford in May 2013, when Toronto Star and the U.S. website Gawker reported the existence of a video apparently showing the mayor inhaling from a crack pipe. He denied the existence of the video for months but finally admitted to using crack after police announced they had obtained it.
The ensuing uproar climaxed with the Toronto City Council stripping Ford of most of his mayoral powers. It lacked the authority to oust him from office because Ford was not convicted of a crime. The mayor has been the subject of an ongoing police investigation but has not been charged.
More reports and videos surfaced of Ford acting inappropriately while intoxicated in public. When reports emerged this year of a second video showing him apparently smoking crack, Ford decided to enter rehab, but he refused to quit his job or abandon his bid for re-election. He returned to work in June after two months in rehab for drugs and alcohol.
Doug Ford, 49, a fiery defender of his brother throughout the scandals, has himself has been the subject of drug allegations. The Globe and Mail newspaper reported last year that Doug Ford sold hashish for several years in the 1980s, allegations the city councilor has denied.
Nelson Wiseman, a University of Toronto political science professor, said Doug Ford’s candidacy is unlikely to change the course of an election that his brother had been expected to lose.
“The Ford years in City Hall are coming to an end in a few short weeks,” Wiseman said. “After this Toronto’s mayor will never again make it in the international news again.”
He said he expects John Tory, a moderate conservative, to continue being the front-runner, ahead of Doug Ford and leftist Olivia Chow.
“It’s not just that Doug’s too late. He doesn’t have the celebrity status of Rob Ford. Nobody is running around wanting to take a selfie with Doug,” Wiseman said.