TORONTO — Toronto's troubled yet defiant mayor isn't allowing months of scandal to stop him from entering what's likely to be the most watched municipal race in the city's history.
Rob Ford was first in line at city hall to sign up for the Oct. 27 mayoral election when the nomination period opened Thursday.
He expressed confidence that he'll win "Ford More Years" in the top job, despite admitting to using crack cocaine in a "drunken stupor" and making a crude sexual comment on live TV, among other cringe-worthy incidents that have garnered international attention and made him the butt of jokes on late-night shows.
Departing Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Ryback joined in Thursday, tweeting "Only a couple of hours left. Must...suppress...inner...Rob...Ford".
Asked why voters should trust him after denying for months that he smoked crack, Ford replied: "That's all personal."
"Let the people speak for themselves," he said, adding that he'd rather have people vote against him than not vote at all.
"I've got the strongest track record," Ford added. "I've been the best mayor that this city has ever had."
Ford has steadfastly refused to take a leave or resign since reports surfaced in May of a video that appeared to show him smoking crack. Police said in October that they had recovered the video but refused to release it. Five days later, Ford confessed to using the drug while in office.
In November, city council voted to strip him of most of his powers, leaving him with little more than ribbon-cutting duties.
The besieged mayor called it a coup d'etat, comparing it to the 1991 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and a declaration of war.
But Ford has said he's turning his life around, staying off alcohol and trying to lose weight.
"We're going to let my track record speak for itself," the mayor said Thursday.
"I'm not running away from anyone. Let's have a full debate. Any time, any place, I'll debate anyone, even in their backyard."
He boasted that he's saved the city "hundreds of millions of dollars," created jobs and a "booming" economy in Toronto with a "business-friendly atmosphere of low taxes."
"That's Rob Ford, that's not ... the Canadian government," he told Toronto radio station 680News.
Other possible high-profile contenders for the job include NDP MP Olivia Chow, former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader John Tory and councillors Karen Stintz and Denzil Minnan-Wong.
None of them have filed their nomination papers, although Stintz has said she'll run. They have until Sept. 12 to enter the race.
Once nomination papers are filed, candidates are allowed to raise money and incur expenses for their campaigns.
Ford said he expect his rivals to "get personal" during the campaign.
"I know that's going to happen," he said. "I'm ready for it."