News / Edmonton

Family ties: When running for office means following in a parent's footsteps

Relatives running simultaneous campaigns are uncommon in Edmonton, but this election has three sets of politically-minded family members.

Justin and Michelle Draper are both running elections at the same time for separate positions.

Kevin Tuong / For Metro

Justin and Michelle Draper are both running elections at the same time for separate positions.

When Justin Draper, a candidate for city council in Ward 4, got up to speak at the Hairsine Community League’s recent annual general meeting, his mother, Michelle, was listening in the audience.

Afterwards, she recalls, a person sitting in front of her started turning around.

"[They asked] ‘Hey? Draper? That’s the same last name, are you related?”

“We both started laughing, and sort of moved away from each other in a joking way, and said ‘yes, absolutely we are.’”

Michelle Draper is a familiar face in local politics. She’s been a trustee on the Edmonton Public School Board since 2013, and was recently acclaimed as the newest board chair.

But this election held a fresh twist: She’s running a campaign alongside her son for the first time.

Relatives running simultaneous campaigns are uncommon in Edmonton, but this election has three sets of politically-minded family members.

Ward 7 incumbent Tony Caterina is running again, as his son Rocco campaigns in Ward 4 for the first time. Meanwhile, father and daughter Rudy Arcilla and Mara Suchy are both seeking seats on the Catholic School Board, in Ward 72 and 71 respectively.

The elder Caterina said he was glad when his son, who has been his executive assistant for the past 10 years, decided to run.

Still, he said that if they both get elected, they will be colleagues first and foremost when dealing with council matters.

Rocco Caterina (L) and father Coun. Tony Caterina (R), both candidates running for Ward 4 and Ward 7 respectively.

Rocco Caterina (L) and father Coun. Tony Caterina (R), both candidates running for Ward 4 and Ward 7 respectively.

“We do have dinner together on Sunday like any other family,” he told Metro, “but this is a professional relationship we have had for the past 10 years when we’ve been employer/employee, and that is probably going to remain.”

Justin said his interest in politics also started at the dinner table.

“I think that comes from the type of family we have… we talk about issues, we have debates and we don’t always agree but we always have informed debates,” he said.

Having a family member who’s also running does have its perks though, as Justin helped out on his mom’s 2013 campaign. This time around, they’ve been able to bounce ideas off of each other.

“Justin was awesome in helping me design my promotional material, and he kind of made sure that it looked crisp and clean and got the key information,” Michelle said.

“I would give my opinion on his so we would talk about what are some important points to profile.”

Arcilla and Suchy say they’re helping each other navigate the process. As candidates in neighbouring wards, they add they often end up at the same community events.

“Being that he is my dad, and he does have more years of experience, I kind of want to draw on that,” Suchy said.

But Arcilla says he’s almost more concerned with the success of his daughter’s campaign than his own.

“She is very intelligent, she is opinionated, she can speak very well, better than I can at least,” he said. “I want her to be there because I know that she has some points, some opinions that people should listen to.”

But despite family ties, each offspring candidate was clear that they were capable of making up their own mind.

Rocco, who also worked on his father’s 2013 campaign, said Tony instilled in him to be a “free, independent thinker.”

“I’m here to provide what I feel would be best for Edmonton. It’s not what Tony necessarily views,” he said. “I’m not here to tow his line, nor does he expect that.”

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