Newfoundland NDP Leader Wins Byelection
By Tara Brautigam
November 1, 2006
St. John's, N.L. — Newfoundland NDP Leader Lorraine Michael has won a fiercely fought provincial byelection, fending off worries about the party's future into next year's election.
Michael captured 1,968 votes to defeat Conservative candidate Jerome Kennedy, who received 1,595.
Michael and Kennedy waged vigorous campaigns in the St. John's riding of Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi in a race that observers considered too close to call.
Federal New Democrats, including Leader Jack Layton, pounded the pavement for Michael, while actress Mary Walsh, Premier Danny Williams and the majority of his caucus knocked on doors for Kennedy.
A loss would have been a big setback to the NDP.
The party's only member of the legislature is Labrador West representative Randy Collins, who has been under a cloud of suspicion since being named in a government spending scandal this summer.
Michael, a former Roman Catholic nun who left the church in 1993 after its handling of sexual abuse allegations, became leader in May after Jack Harris decided to step down.
Kennedy, 46, is a well-known criminal lawyer who has served as counsel for several men wrongly accused of murder, including James Driskell, Ronald Dalton and Greg Parsons.
The Liberals did not run a candidate at the request of the NDP.
The Tories declined the NDP's invitation to sit out the byelection to give Michael, 63, a clear path to the legislature.
The Conservatives hold 35 seats in the 48-seat legislature. The Liberals have 11 seats and the NDP one.
The New Democrats have never come close to forming the official Opposition, much less the government, since they won their first seat in 1984.
Michael's victory allows the NDP caucus to retain funding from the legislature, just before the home stretch to a provincial election set for Oct. 9, 2007.
Kennedy fought on traditional NDP territory in a riding that belonged to Harris for more than a decade before he stepped down in September.
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