The Lowdown on Kathleen Wynne’s Campaign Manager David Herle

By Josh Lieblein

David Smith. Don Guy. Jean Lapierre. Gerald Butts. Laura Miller. Katie Telford.

David Herle wishes he was part of this elite group of Liberal magicians. And while it must be validating for him that Kathleen Wynne trusts him enough to manage her re-election bid–enough to reward him with 900K in lucrative contracts–there are those within the Liberal fold who have reason to doubt that ol’ Diamond Dave can get the job done.

I suppose you necessarily must grow up with a desire to prove yourself when you belong to one of the few Liberal families in the great province of Saskatchewan. Apparently Dave’s dear sister Allyce bravely faced off against current CPC leader Andrew Scheer in his first electoral outing and placed third. Dave, meanwhile, distinguished himself as a driver for then-Saskatchewan Liberal Party leader Ralph Goodale, the only MP who has hung around long enough to represent both Trudeau governments.

When you grow up with King Ralph as your political high-water mark, it tends to create a bit of insecurity when you’re in the same room with infamous Trudeau advisor Keith Davey. That’s probably why Herle admitted in a moment of weakness that he wanted his name to surpass that of the infamous Rainmaker.

Unfortunately for our hero Dave, the upper echelons of the Liberal Party looked askance at him for his rough Prairie roots. As member of the John Turner faction of the party in the 80’s, the harassed and beleaguered Herle was repeatedly undermined by Trudeau Sr.’s Laurentian elites to the point where Dave reportedly lashed out and called Davey “a son of a b*tch“.

The embattled Mr. Herle did what all Liberals spurned by the Trudeau inner circle did: join Paul Martin’s camp. From there things turned out like you’d expect–a plum position at Earnscliffe, the lobbying firm fingered in the sponsorship scandal, a decades long brawl with Chrétien loyalist Warren Kinsella, and recurrent guest spots on political panels thanks to his friendship with Peter Mansbridge.

Through it all, Herle would continue to go overboard in carrying water for his old pal Ralph Goodale, ensuring that the sole Liberal seat in Saskatchewan would be held by Ralph and nobody else. At one point, he would be found spinning one of Goodale’s nomination rival’s thank-you outings for beer and pizza for campaign volunteers into a PSA against underage drinking.

But it all came crashing down when the responsibility for the 2004 and 2006 elections were placed on Herle’s shoulders. As the Liberal numbers plummeted in 2004, Herle went public with the dispiriting assertion that his campaign was “in a spiral“, which is exactly the sort of thing a group of candidates want to hear from their skipper.

Banished to Middle Earth after the Liberals were finally driven from power, he set up his own firm, the Gandalf Group, putting out economic prospecti, cataloguing his own positive press clippings, and carrying out interesting public opinion research. By 2012, he was still carrying a torch for Paul Martin, arguing that Mr. Dithers had built the party in the West in a way that Chretien never had, and that the Liberals would have been a truly national party if it hadn’t been for that inconvenient Sponsorship Scandal ruining things. As Trudeau soaked up all the glitz and glamour, Herle was relegated to clearing the way at the provincial level, orchestrating victories for Brian Gallant in New Brunswick and Kathleen Wynne in Ontario.

For all this, though, the Liberal A-team doesn’t seem interested in letting him make the calls. Trudeau rejected his pitch to use attack ads in 2015, and when things looked grim for Justin in the pre-election run-up and rumours were circulating that Gerald Butts might end up benched, Herle was–purely coincidentally, no doubt–being tapped as a potential replacement.

Fitting, then, that the politically desperate and seminally unpopular Kathleen Wynne would turn, once again, to the only Liberal as apt to attack when cornered as she is to manage what could well be the campaign she and the Ontario Liberal Party go out in a blaze of vainglory.

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