If either Cathy Bennett, Paul Antle or Danny Dumaresque wins the Liberal leadership Nov. 17, they may be waiting a while for a seat in the House of Assembly.
Premier Kathy Dunderdale recognized that three of the five Liberal leadership contenders don’t have a seat in the House, so she offered to help them out.
When Jerome Kennedy resigned earlier this month, Dunderdale said she wouldn’t call the Carbonear-Harbour Grace byelection until after the Liberals wrapped up their leadership race.
“Strategically, politically, it might be better for us to go early, but I don’t think that’s what the province would want,” Dunderdale said last week. “We will wait and give the new leader — if it’s not a person who currently has a seat in the House of Assembly — an opportunity to run in Carbonear-Harbour Grace.”
But on Tuesday, the Liberals’ message to Dunderdale was, thanks but no thanks.
The party called nominations for the Carbonear-Harbour Grace byelection, virtually assuring that somebody locally will carry the flag for the party, as opposed to Antle, Bennett or Dumaresque.
Dumaresque said he would have run in the seat if the party had held off on calling nominations.
“If, in fact, the seat was open and the nomination was still open and I was the leader, then as leader I would run,” he said.
Antle also said if he’s elected as Liberal leader, he’ll run in the first available byelection, and that would have been Carbonear-Harbour Grace.
“I really want to win and become the next leader of the Liberal party, so all of my effort and all of my focus has to be on that. I can’t get distracted right in the middle with a byelection,” he said. “But as leader, I want to get into the House as soon as I can after Nov. 17.”
Antle said the party didn’t consult with him before calling nominations.
“They didn’t ask me about timing, they didn’t ask me about anything. They just did this on their own,” he said.
All three candidates said they can’t get sidetracked with the nominations right now, because all the focus is on the leadership campaign.
“Our focus and my focus has to be around the race that I’m running right now,” Bennett said. “When I cross this hurdle, then I’ll focus on the next hurdle, which is getting into the House of Assembly as quickly as I can to represent the people of the province.”
If the Liberals had held off on calling nominations until after the Nov. 17 leadership convention, it likely would have opened up the opportunity for Antle, Bennett or Dumaresque to run there, if one of them won the contest.
Liberal party president Judy Morrow wouldn’t explain why the party wouldn’t go that route, except to say she won’t take her cues from Dunderdale.
“With the greatest respect, the premier doesn’t set the timelines for nominations in the Liberal party,” Morrow said. “I’m not going to make any further comment. We’ve rolled out this one with the same procedure as we have every other nomination since I’ve been president. We’ve consulted with all the appropriate parties.”
Carbonear mayor and fisherman Sam Slade and Olympic gold medallist Jamie Korab have said they plan to seek the nomination.
Nominations close Oct. 22.