The Toronto mayoral race has officially kicked off, with candidates able to formally register starting Monday morning. One has a connection to Waterloo Region.

Ward 19 councillor in Toronto and now mayoral candidate Brad Bradford is the oldest child of Kitchener South-Hespeler MP Valerie Bradford.

“We’re both dedicated to serving our communities, just on different ends of the 401,” Brad says.

While multiple generations of the same family seeking political office isn’t uncommon, their story has a twist: it was Brad who entered politics first and then helped convince his mother to do the same.

“Yes, it is a bit backwards that the parent follows the trail of the offspring into politics,” Valerie says.

Brad was first elected to Toronto City Council in 2018, and re-elected in 2022. Valerie won the riding of Kitchener South-Hespeler in 2021.

Valerie says she was always interested in running for politics, but as a single mother of three and later a city of Kitchener employee, it wasn’t an option earlier in her life.

Around the time she was ready to retire, though, an opportunity to run for the nomination in Kitchener South-Hespeler arose, and her son encouraged her to take the leap.

“Brad says ‘mom, you’re going to go for this, right?’” Valerie recounts. “He says, ‘come on mom, you’ve wanted to do this your whole life, you’ve got to do it, you’ve got to go for it. I’ll help you,’ which of course he did.”

Brad says his mother’s experience as a single parent and a professional are what made her a good candidate for political office.

“I said, ‘you know mom that counts for a lot and you could really make a positive difference in peoples’ lives.’”

Brad says he personally has been inspired by his mother.

“She’s always been a great sounding board for advice and perspective because her life and her journey has been different,” he says. “I learn more by listening than anything else, and she’s been a huge resource for me.”

Now, as Brad hits the campaign trail once again, he says one of the most common questions he gets has to do with his name. Turns out both his first and last name are tributes to his mom.

His first name was originally Bradford, his mother’s maiden name, and he used his father’s surname. But when his parents parted ways, Valerie decided to go back to her original last name, and the children followed suit, with Brad choosing to keep the short form as his first name.

“So that’s how I became Brad Bradford,” he explains, adding, “It’s an honour to have her last name. I think it’s memorable.”

While political life can be intense, and it can be a challenge for mother and son to even find time for phone calls at times with their busy schedules, Valerie says she’s glad she took the leap into politics.

“If I don’t put my hat in the ring, I’ll always wonder if I could have, so I’m so glad that I did,” she says. “And I think that’s the same with Brad right now.”

Valerie says her son is driven and full of energy.

“When he makes up his mind to do something, he is all in, totally focused. And for those reasons I think he’d be an awesome mayor,” she says.

“But I’m not objective!” she adds with a laugh.

The by-election for Toronto mayor will be held on June 26.