'This is just the beginning': Mayor Rob Ford launches election campaign
Published Thursday, April 17, 2014 3:37PM EDT Last Updated Thursday, April 17, 2014 9:41PM EDT
TORONTO -- Toronto's controversial Mayor Rob Ford threw a large party -- complete with recorded music and a live band -- for the official launch of his re-election campaign.
Ford, who was the first to register as a candidate in January, held the event at the Toronto Congress Centre in the west-end Etobicoke area he previously represented as a city councillor.
The mayor made his way through the crowd along a red carpet to the stage, led by bag-pipers and volunteers carrying campaign signs as people snapped pictures with cellphones.
"Thank you Ford Nation. This is absolutely amazing. But this is just the beginning," a beaming Ford said to the cheering crowd.
The mayor addressed his personal problems near the beginning of his speech, thanking people he says have been contacting him with words of encouragement and support.
City council removed most of Ford's powers after he admitted to having smoked crack cocaine.
"There's been some rocky moments over the past year. I have experienced how none of us can go through life without making mistakes," he said.
"And when they occur, we learn a lot about ourselves. Humility, the kindness of people and the spirit of second chances."
Ford spoke for about half an hour, saying he would run for the Oct. 27 election on his record by promising more of the same -- but did not release a specific platform.
Ford portrayed himself as a representative of average people against elitists and special interest groups.
"The people of Toronto know that I am just like them," he proclaimed.
"The people of Toronto know that I understand them, that I stand up for them, and I won't back down when I'm fighting for them."
After his speech, he walked through the crowd again to the strains of "We're Not Gonna Take It" by Twisted Sister.
Earlier in the evening, hundreds lined up for a chance to shake hands with Ford, who arrived early to mingle with members of what is called Ford Nation, chatting and posing for pictures.
Among those who warmed up the crowd were his brother and campaign manager, Coun. Doug Ford, and former Canadian heavyweight boxing champion George Chuvalo.
There were lineups for Rob Ford bobble-head dolls that were being sold for $30 and $100 to raise money for the campaign.
The hall was decked with large "Ford Nation" signs, and there was a fire truck on display with a banner that read "Saving the taxpayers from getting burned."
Volunteers gave out one free drink to everyone along with T-shirts and flags to the first 1,000 people.
Chants of "Ford more years!" and screams of "we love you Rob Ford" could be heard in the lobby as people lined up to enter the building.
The main area was lit up with red and blue lights as rock and roll music played and giant digital signs said "Ford for Mayor" above the podium as supporters filed into their seats.
People who said they voted for Ford in the last election and back when he was the councillor for the area said that despite his other problems, the mayor has delivered on his commitments, including ending the "gravy train" at city hall.
Aisha Schuster said Ford has been good for Toronto.
"I think that he does what he says he's going to do and he does it to the best of his ability," Schuster said.
"You know we all have personal stuff. There's no perfect person and I fully support him."
George Zambrano was among those who said they were not concerned about Ford's personal life.
"He's saving us money," Zambrano said, adding when asked about the drug admissions: "Well you know what, that's his off time. He can do whatever he wants when he's not working."