The Conservatives don’t seem to be paying the price in Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge for their late start in the federal election.
A nomination meeting Tuesday drew about 1,000 party members, most of whom voted for Mike Murray, making him the candidate to represent Stephen Harper in Oct. 19th’s election.
“The turnout was spectacular for a summer evening,” said Murray, who was endorsed by Randy Kamp.
The retiring MP also introduced Murray’s speech.
Just how many votes Murray drew versus rival Marc Dalton wasn’t revealed. But it was a close race, said Murray, Kamp’s constituency assistant.
“It was encouraging to see that kind of involvement from our community from Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge … in the middle of summer,” said Dalton, who now returns to the B.C. legislature and rejoins the B.C. Liberal party as MLA for Maple Ridge-Mission.
People had to wait a half hour and lined up outside in order to vote for their candidate at Westview secondary.
In bid to shore up his support, Dalton signed up about 800 new Conservative party members.
Dalton sat as an independent MLA during his bid for the federal nomination in order to reduce the time required for party duties.
With the winner declared, Dalton endorsed Murray, Kamp’s executive assistant, as the candidate.
Dalton said the competition served as a way of re-connecting with his base of supporters. That could help in the next provincial election.
“It was a lot of work. It’s a good exercise because it develops those relationships.”
Murray said the next step is to find a campaign office. He has a campaign team that’s ready to go.
He said support for Conservatives here hasn’t been affected by the trial of former party senator Mike Duffy. The number of people who showed up, proved that.
“There’s no dampening of enthusiasm whatsoever,” Murray added.
“We feel confident about the message, still. The campaign theme is a safer Canada and a stronger economy. We just want to lay that before the people.”
NDP candidate Bob D’Eith said he’s looking forward to the campaign.
“I think it’s going to be a close race. We have to work hard.”
He also said it remains a two-way race between the Conservatives and NDP in the riding and has been that way for 50 years. New residents and the loss of Mission as part of the riding makes it difficult to compare previous results when the riding was known at Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission.
In the May 2011 election, Kamp took 28,803 votes versus 18,835 for the NDP.
Local business owner Dan Ruimy was named the Liberal candidate by acclamation the previous week.
Peter Tam is running for the Green Party.