Barely a month after his election, a glowing profile of Kennedy, entitled “The Rookie” appeared on page 1 of the Star’s Life section. Three weeks later, Kennedy was a declared candidate. Despite his scanty experience, Kennedy garnered the support of heavy hitters such as long-time MPP Gerry Phillips and Peterson-era finance minister Bob Nixon.
Kennedy enjoyed a paper lead after the delegate selection meetings, having elected the most delegates committed to vote for him on first ballot. A week before the November 30 vote, the Star endorsed Kennedy in an editorial: “Kennedy also possesses – unlike the outgoing leader, the sincere but plodding Lyn McLeod – the vision and the charisma so essential to winning an election. He has a proven ability to attract and inspire people of differing backgrounds to a public cause.”
But three days before the vote, a story appeared on page 11 of the Star, titled “Liberal camps gang up in bid to stop Kennedy: Question loyalty of frontrunner in leadership race.” Queen’s Park bureau chief William Walker reported that “top candidates for leader of Ontario's Liberal party appear to be ganging up on frontrunner Gerard Kennedy in a last-ditch attempt to block a victory by the 36-year-old rookie MPP.”
Then on the day of the vote, a bombshell: a front-page Star story entitled “Frontrunner Kennedy target of surprise attack: Letter from executive of own riding urges Liberal delegates not to back him.” The story reported that Kennedy was the target of a scathing attack from members of his own York South Liberal riding association executive. The executive had distributed more than 1,000 letters to delegates on the convention floor the previous night, urging them not to vote for Kennedy.
Despite last-ballot support from Dwight Duncan – who enjoyed the support of a gaggle of MPPs – Kennedy was edged out by Dalton McGuinty, who enjoyed the support of Tony Ruprecht (and had placed fourth on the first ballot). Due to incompetence on the part of vote organizers, the final ballot was not announced until approximately 4:00 a.m.
Now the Star is boosting a Kennedy candidacy again, this time for federal Liberal leader. On Wednesday, in a story entitled “Liberals eye education minister,” Queen’s Park columnist Ian Urquhart reported that:
Kennedy acknowledged today that he’s spoken privately with supporters about entering the federal Liberal leadership race but said he isn’t making any plans to do so — yet. “People have approached me; I’ve been respectful,” Kennedy said before a cabinet meeting at the Ontario legislature.
Again, Kennedy is being touted by a cabal of heavy hitters, reportedly Senator Terry Mercer, a former national director of the federal Liberals, community activist June Callwood, and writer-philosopher Mary Jo Leddy.
Will Kennedy come running for the Star football again? Or has he learned through bitter experience not to get high on the ink of his Star clippings? Only time will tell.