Provincial cabinet ministers, senators, chanting supporters and a band crowded into the Holyrood Star of the Sea Hall Monday night.
They were all there to welcome Tory Fabian Manning back into elected politics.
Manning announced he was resigning his seat in the Senate to run for the riding of Avalon in the May 2 election.
“In a choice between the Senate and the Avalon, I chose the Avalon,” Manning declared before a crowd of cheering supporters.
On Monday, the lay of the land for the election was starting to firm up, with former journalist Ryan Cleary confirmed as the candidate for the NDP in St. John’s South-Mount Pearl.
“Harper has not only shown contempt for Parliament — he has shown contempt for Newfoundland and Labrador,” Cleary said.
Former provincial finance minister and fisheries ambassador
Loyola Sullivan is expected to announce this morning that he will be the Conservative candidate in the riding of St. John’s South-Mount Pearl.
But it was the Manning announcement that has been speculated about for weeks, with even his wife saying he would be crazy to give up a senate seat.
Senators hold their position until the age of 75, and get paid more than $130,000 annually.
Manning was elected to the House of Commons in 2006, but he lost his seat in the 2008 federal election.
During that campaign, then-premier Danny Williams targeted Manning as part of his ABC (Anything But Conservative) campaign.
Things got so bitter that Manning accused an MHA of threatening one of his campaign workers, and Williams said Manning should stop dealing in “deceit and telling lies.”
Shortly after the election, Manning was appointed to the senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Asked by reporters, Manning said he was in the election to win, but wouldn’t rule out returning to the senate if he lost the election, and was offered the job again.
But the mood in the room emphasized this campaign would be different.
Tourism Minister Terry French, was sitting conspicuously in the front row as Manning made his announcement Monday night.
He said that it was hard to withdraw support from Manning and other Conservatives during the last election, but this time around they’ll be out in full force.
“An awful lot of us spent our lifetime campaigning for the Progressive Conservative Party and in turn the Conservative Party,” he said. “I think the statement was made the last time with the ABC campaign, (but) I mean that was tough for an awful lot of us.”
“In a choice between the Senate and the Avalon, I chose the Avalon.” - Fabian Manning
To drive the point home, French was joined by Justice Minister Felix Collins, Transportation and Works Minister Tom Hedderson, and MHAs Keith Hutchings and Calvin Peach.
Manning will also be receiving support from other heavy hitters. Senator Elizabeth Marshall will be heavily involved in his campaign, and on Thursday Harper will be in the province to lend his support.
For supporter Robert Lundrigan, it was good to be back in Manning’s corner.
Lundrigan said he stayed quiet in 2008, and withheld his support.
“I was a provincial government employee last time,” Lundrigan said. “My support was clouded. I was in a different place in my life and I didn’t openly support anyone.”
Eta Nash, meanwhile, said she never wavered.
“The mood is excellent here this evening,” she said. “His chances are 100 per cent.”