Now that Premier Danny Williams has announced he will step down from politics at the end of next week, the big question for political watchers is: who will replace him?
While deputy premier and Natural Resources Minister Kathy Dunderale will be interim premier until a leadership convention can be held in the new year, names have been surfacing for some time about possible successors.
Traditionally, the person named
as interim leader doesn’t run for the leadership full-time as it’s considered as being at too much of a political advantage.
That being said, Dunderdale could still be considering a run.
Even if it’s only for a short time, Williams said the province is being left in good hands and that the Tory caucus has endorsed Dunderdale’s leadership, at least for now.
“I’m just delighted that Kathy is the first female premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, because she deserves to be,” he said.
“She is a pillar; a tower of strength. She has a huge heart and a huge ... social consciousness. Yet she can be firm and tough when she needs to be.”
Government House Leader Joan Burke, who is also the minister of Child, Youth and Family Services, is another high-profile woman who has been whispered in political circles as being a potential candidate for some time.
But most people get the sense Health Minister Jerome Kennedy could be the front runner.
In the three short years he’s been in politics he’s already held the Justice and Finance portfolios.
Another minister fairly new to politics who is thought to be in the running is Education Minister Darin King.
Innovation Minister Shawn Skinner and Municipal Affairs Minister Kevin O’Brien are also thought to be kicking tires.
Williams was asked by reporters about his possible successor.
In fact, he said the reason he was announcing his resignation now, and not in a month or more, was so the party would have time to hold a leadership convention before next year’s general election.
“A new leader can (then) put his or her stamp on a budget, throne speech and as well can do a major session of the House (of Assembly) and have some debate and then go into a summer election campaign,” said Williams.
But the premier was clear he won’t endorse any candidate to replace him.
“These people who will run for leadership of this party, certainly from within caucus — I don’t know if anybody who will come from the outside because I haven’t heard of anyone — are very capable people,” he said.
Of course, there is a possibility that someone from outside the caucus could take a run.
When asked if he left his caucus with any advice about a leadership race, Williams had this reply:
“It’s ... very important that they really try and keep the contest clean, because it can be divisive,” he said.
Williams said he realizes that is easier said than done, and recognized why some reporters may be cynical of that.
But he said if the leadership candidates keep the race above board it could benefit the party as a whole by generating new policies and ideas at the convention.