VICTORIA -- The City of Victoria's byelection to decide the community’s newest city councillor is heating up.

Nine candidates are vying for the one seat vacated by Laurel Collins, after she resigned when she was elected an MP in this past October's federal election.

Ross Crockford with Focus Magazine estimates that there are four front runners at the moment: Stephen Andrew, Jeremy Caradonna, Rachael Montgomery and Stefanie Hardman.

Hardman is running as a candidate for the group Together Victoria, the same organization that Collins ran successfully with in the 2018 general election. Current councillors Sharmake Dubow and Sarah Potts were also part of the organization when they were elected into council.

CFAX 1070's Adam Stirling says that despite the past success of the group, there are no guarantees its nominee will prevail again.

"Ordinarily, while you might expect this to be a coronation where Together Victoria is just going to hold the seat after Laurel Collins left, I do think that there are a couple interesting challengers, namely Stephen Andrew and Rachael Montgomery," said Stirling.

Candidate Stephen Andrew is a former journalist who has worked with several organizations, including CTV News. He says that his main focuses are affordability and safety in the city.

"One of the biggest things that really is coming across – at the door or online – is that people are saying they don’t feel safe," he said. "In downtown, there are areas of town they refuse to walk in."

Meanwhile, candidate Rachael Montgomery is a registered nurse. She too puts safety at the top of her list of priorities, along with affordability.

"Business owners are coming into town in the morning and opening up their shops or non-profits or social enterprises [and] they're seeing a lot of people on the streets," Montgomery told CTV News. "It doesn't mean they're unsafe, but there's a feeling of lack of safety on our streets."

For Together Victoria candidate Stefanie Hardman, affordability is the central focus of her campaign.

"I'm hearing housing affordability is the number one issue," she said. "Our cost of living is sky rocketing, it's rising out of pace with peoples' wages. People are being priced out of the city, pushed out."

Five other candidates are hoping to fill the one vacant spot: Peter Forbes, Riga Godron, Gordon Mackinnon, Keith Rosenberg and Alexander Schmid.

Victorians will have a chance to hear from all of the candidates in several upcoming debates, including March 18 at the Rotunda on Douglas Street.

The byelection itself is scheduled for April 4, although Victorians can vote in advance on seven dates starting March 23.