Much of Campbell's success with voters was atributed to his charismatic personalty and colorful background. As the city's former chief coroner, his life inspired a popular drama on the CBC called Da Vinci's Inquest. He was also dubbed the "Dapper Mayor" for his panache for wearing fedora hats and long overcoats. His personality contrasted greatly with his predecessor, Philip Owen, who was seen by many as being quite stiff and boring.
Campbell was also popular for his opposition to the increasingly unpopular provincial government, led by BC premier Gordon Campbell (no relation). Mayor Campbell sought to undermine the premier's eagerness to host the 2010 Winter Olympics by holding a city-wide referendum on the bid. The mayor felt that the people needed a say about the Olympics, and since Gordon Campbell refused a provincial-wide referendum, Vancouver was only allowed to hold a non-binding, city-wide plebiscite. Though Mayor Campbell had originally portrayed himself as critical of the bid, he eventually joined the "yes" side and began actively campaigning for it. The "yes" side ultimately won the vote, but only after a long and often highly polarized debate.
Campbell's other main project has thusfar been the establishment of safe injection sites to help curb Vancouver's widespread drug problem.