Venturing into the treacherous waters of a political primary for the first time since 1994, Ting Shou-chung made it clear that winning the election for Taipei City mayor would be the crowning glory of his career. That was not to be, however, as he finished a distant second behind Sean Lien in the past week’s KMT primary. It was a long fall from his earlier days as a "rising star" in party ranks to being cast as the target of a newer group of political hopefuls riding on a current of "generational change." With his 20-year dream of running for mayor in tatters, he showed grace in defeat and pledged his support to Lien in what could be a nasty campaign through the rest of the year.
Ko Wen-je, a self-declared candidate who could conceivably wind up winning the backing of the DPP despite not being a party member, had characterized Ting as "a mass of cotton candy" early in the campaign. Ko said Ting lacked the charisma of Sean Lien and claimed he didn’t know where to begin in criticizing the KMT candidate.
Ting was born into a military family and studied at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy after graduating from National Taiwan University with a degree in Political Science. He returned to NTU at the age of 30 as an associate professor, gradually shifting into politics with positions in the KMT. He lacked a powerful family background and was almost unfailingly stoic and calm in demeanor, threading his way through Taiwan’s often chaotic political scene for more than twenty years with very few negative incidents to mark him. Unfortunately that also did not make for a lasting impression for many in the party, as the past week’s polls showed.
Ko Wen-je and Sean Lien grabbed most of the headlines and coverage during the early days of the campaign for party candidates. Ting briefly stirred up a bit of controversy with front-page newspaper ads asking "Do you have to kiss a frog?" The ad played on the childhood story of a princess who kissed a frog and then saw it transformed back into the handsome prince it had once been. The ad copy said this frog had been transformed from a tadpole and not a prince, and kissing it would do no good. Instead of kissing the amphibian and hoping for a miracle, Ting’s camp said, voters should opt for a tried and trusty party member.
Ting’s relationship with the Lien family was also examined under a microscope. Lien Chan was Ting’s teacher at NTU, and Ting’s criticism of Sean Lien’s reliance on his family ties brought charges of betrayal and “going too far” from various quarters of the Green Camp. Late in the KMT primary campaign legislator Alex Tsai, who was then trailing badly in opinion polls, attacked Ting for being "ungrateful" to the Lien family. Ting took the criticism in stride as something that comes with the territory in politics.
Now Ting apparently stands at the end of his political travails, having said repeatedly that this would be his last shot at running for office. He took the plunge but came out empty handed, saying only, "Ting Shou-chung did not lose; rather, it was Sean Lien who won." And with that he acknowledged what the numbers showed all too clearly as family members wept by his side. In the all too often nasty world of politics, he went out unbowed, with his head held high,