Rob Ford tells Today show he's in shape, ready to run in crowded mayoral race (VIDEO)


Toronto Mayor Rob Ford sits during a Toronto City Council meeting at City Hall on November 15, 2013 in Toronto, Canada.


Aaron Vincent Elkaim

Maybe Toronto should use a reality show to choose its next mayor. We suggest Big Brother Canada: Mayoral Mayhem for a title.

The list of candidates is long — 33 and growing — and it, of course, features everybody's favorite crack-smoking, Jamaican patois-speaking Rob Ford in the starring role.

Here's a rundown of the characters you will learn to love and loathe as Toronto chooses its new civic leader ... on Oct. 27.

The Favorite

Ford is not the only made-for-TV character in the running, but he's certainly the most visible. He told the Today show on Tuesday he's drinking less, hitting the gym daily and well on his way to losing the weight (both real and metaphoric) necessary to run the race of his life.

It was a smiling, affable Ford who appeared on the NBC morning show, a far cry from the man who traded barbs with host Matt Lauer three months ago after admitting to smoking crack “in a drunken stupor.”

“I don’t use illegal drugs,” Ford said on Tuesday. “I experimented with them like probably a year ago, but I don’t use drugs and we’re in great shape. Right after this interview I’m dying to hit the gym.”

Although Ford admitted he still drinks after promising to quit, he quickly added he’s trying to improve his life and no longer binges. He was embarrassed earlier this year after another video surfaced of an inebriated Ford mumbling and cursing in a Jamaican accent late at night inside a fast-food restaurant.

“You know what, Matt,” Ford said, “maybe you’re perfect, but I’m not, and we’re moving on in a positive direction and we’re moving forward.”

OK, so it wasn’t always smooth, but certainly a far cry from Ford’s earlier appearance.

Here's the rest of the field:

The Challengers

John Tory is a veteran politician with a crack election team and powerful endorsements. A lawyer and former leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, he narrowly lost the 2003 Toronto mayoral race. The Globe and Mail called him a fiscally conservative, but socially liberal who will challenge Ford on his turf while presenting a moderate face to voters fed up with Ford’s scandals.

“Right now, we’re in a time when we need to get the city working together, get the city council working together,” Tory said, “to have one city."

Karen Stintz is another conservative who many suggest will steal Ford backers impressed by the mayor’s tight control of taxes. Stintz served 10 years on city council and is chairwoman of the Toronto Transit Commission, no small job in North America’s fourth-largest city.

“Toronto needs a responsible and accountable mayor to help get things done, and do things in a different way,” she said. “And I want to be able to do that for our city.”

David Soknacki might be the foil to Ford’s “everyman” appeal. He’s a former council member and budget chief at City Hall offering hard numbers while demanding the same from the incumbent.

Coming soon?

Olivia Chow, the left-leaning candidate, says she won’t decide until next month. Chow is a Member of Parliament and garnered national attention after she lost her husband, Jack Layton, to cancer after he led the New Democrats to second place in the 2011 federal election.

“I’ll let you know when there’s something more to say,” Chow told the Toronto Sun. “For now, I look forward to hearing Mr. Tory’s and Ms. Stintz’s ideas. Because Rob Ford has let people down too often, and we need a new mayor.”

The fringe?

Ford also faces: a white supremacist (Don Andrews, leader of the Neo-Nazi Nationalist Party of Canada); a well-known political name (Al Gore, but not that Al Gore); another famous name, this from the world of music (Gregory Isaacs, but not that Gregory Isaacs); two real musicians; and, a 70-something woman who rides a motor scooter and once showed up to a debate dressed in tiara and angel wings.

Like we said, the crack-smoking Ford has some real competition.

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