Someone once said, “The internet is forever,” and that truism is top of mind for many potential election candidates at all levels of government. Not for the first time in the annals of political campaign – but perhaps for the first time in the context of a Guelph municipal election – a candidate has pulled their name from consideration even though, in this case, they’ll still be technically on the ballot.
In a post to his website Thursday evening, Ward 1 candidate Thai Mac announced that he was standing down due so social media posts from five-years ago that have been making the rounds online, and, according to Mac, due to the negative impacts on his friends and family.
“Since I’ve announced my run for councillor, my family have been harrassed and ridiculed. I have kept quiet on that front in pursuit of a positive campaign. But with the recent revelations, it has exponentially increased to threats of violence and even more hurtful comments that does not accurately reflect the person that I am,” Mac said in a statement. “I am hereby announcing my withdrawal from the campaign.”
Mac specifically cited a series of Google Reviews from five years ago that feature very offensive and inappropriate comments about LGBTQ+ people posted as reviews of local businesses:
“They may be viewed as offensive to the LGBTQ community. I apologize and recognize that they were distasteful and please know that’s not the person I am today, as can be demonstrated and seen in our online community,” Mac said. “Those who know me, and know our community well, know that I am supportive of, and have at times defended and promoted LGBTQ community events, threads and comments.”
Jokes at the expense of people in the queer community may have been a thing of the past, but they were not the only concerning posts to emerge from Mac’s own social media presence. Other examples being traded on various social media channels include a thinly veiled reference to QAnon, a political cartoon implying that COVID-19 was a conspiracy, and a post made after Overdose Awareness Day that mocks people addicted to substances.
Guelph Market proprietor Brian Kwok has also accused Mac of doxxing them for their opposition to the Freedom Convoy protest in Ottawa earlier this year, and took to their Instagram to call on followers living in Ward 1 to not vote for Mac in the October election. Concerns about Mac had even begun to affect other candidates, among them Ward 1 incumbent Dan Gibson and Mayor Cam Guthrie, who has previous appeared on Mac’s Facebook page “Caught in Guelph.”
With the pressure turning up on Mac, it seems that a request for comment from the Guelph Mercury Tribune prompted Mac to effectively end his candidacy, though technically he’s still on the ballot because the formal deadline to withdraw from the race was August 19, which was also the deadline for people to sign up to run. In other words, as Mac said, “I believe my name will still be on the printed ballots.”
Gibson, Michelle Bowman, Erin Caton, Chidi Nwene, and Dhruv Shah are all vying for one of two seats in the new Ward 1, which covers all areas east of Victoria Road.
Mac has removed all content from his campaign his campaign except for his statement. He’s also removed his campaign Twitter page and has made his campaign Facebook page “private.”
***UPDATE: This post was updated to reflect Brian Kwok’s proper pronouns. Guelph Politico deeply regrets the error.