Scandal-plagued Toronto Mayor Rob Ford launches re-election bid

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford (centre) speaks at his campaign launch party in Toronto on April 17, 2014. Mr Ford, who has admitted to binge drinking and smoking crack, has launched his bid for re-election. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford (centre) speaks at his campaign launch party in Toronto on April 17, 2014. Mr Ford, who has admitted to binge drinking and smoking crack, has launched his bid for re-election. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

TORONTO (AFP) - Toronto's scandal-plagued Mayor Rob Ford, who has admitted to binge drinking and smoking crack, has launched his bid for re-election.

Mr Ford kicked off his campaign for the October 27 election telling supporters at a rally in Canada's largest city on Thursday that he was grateful to those who have stuck by him.

"I soldier on day in, day out because of you people," said Mr Ford said, flanked by his family and volunteers waving "Ford for Mayor" signs, the Toronto Star reported. "I have experienced how none of us can go through our life without making mistakes. I've learned humility, kindness of people and the spirit of second chances. I owe the people a great debt of gratitude," he added.

The Mayor, mired in scandal for months after being accused of unseemly behavior during a series of drunken rampages, was stripped of most of his powers.

The anti-tax populist still enjoys strong support, according to opinion polls.

Mr Ford was first elected in a landslide in October 2010, picking up the support of 47 per cent of Toronto voters, who liked his promises to cut taxes, focus on customer service and slash wasteful spending.

His die-hard backers in the suburbs of the Canadian metropolis have kept his approval ratings hovering around that mark even as the scandals mounted - alleged ties to gang members, admitted crack cocaine use and embarrassing YouTube videos.

But his support has slid in the run-up to the election.

The latest opinion poll, taken on Monday, put leftist candidate Olivia Chow at the head of the field with 34 per cent of support, Mr Ford with 27 per cent and former opposition leader John Tory with 24 per cent, according to the Star.