(Toronto) The campaign to elect Toronto’s next mayor is officially underway, with a number of high-profile candidates jostling to establish themselves at the top of an already hot race.

Scores of mayoral candidates came to City Hall on Monday to drop off their nomination papers, kicking off their campaign for the June 26 by-election.

High-profile candidates who have made their candidacy official include former provincial Liberal education minister Mitzie Hunter, city councilors Brad Bradford and Josh Matlow, ex-councillor Ana Bailão and former Toronto police chief Mark Saunders.

The hotly contested by-election comes after the surprise resignation in February of John Tory, who won re-election last fall. Mr. Tory admitted to having an affair with a member of his staff.

The nomination period for the mayoral race will end on May 12. Advance voting will be offered June 8-13, and the by-election itself is scheduled for June 26.

Zac Spicer, an associate professor at York University, pointed out that candidates have a short window of time to improve their campaign profile. He foresees a wave of political announcements in the coming days, as the many candidates seek to define themselves in the lot and define their opponents.

“The countdown has officially begun. Things are going to move very quickly over the next few weeks,” Spicer said.

The professor expects that, during the first part of the campaign, candidates will attack those who share a political program similar to theirs, in an attempt to reduce the number of candidates.

“If you’re a contender in this race, you want a direct opponent. You don’t want your vote split into six different parts,” he explained.

The candidates announced their priorities on Monday. Many debates are likely to revolve around safety in public transport and budget deficits linked to the pandemic.

Toronto faces a nearly $1.5 billion gap between its 2022 and 2023 budgets, largely due to lost transit revenue and rising shelter costs, though recent federal budgets and provincial have promised to replenish the coffers of the city.

As of Monday afternoon, more than 20 people had already entered the mayoral race. Former Sun columnist Anthony Furey and former city councilor Giorgio Mammoliti have also completed the necessary paperwork to enter the race.