Dwight Ball wins Liberal leadership race in Newfoundland and Labrador

James McLeod jmcleod@thetelegram.com
Published on November 17, 2013

Around 350 Liberals packed in front of the TV cameras in the Delta hotel ballroom, and erupted with cheers and applause when Dwight Ball was named the new leader of the party.

Sunday's announcement caps off five months of intensive campaigning for the Liberals, and party luminaries celebrated how the party has grown.

Dwight Ball edged out rivals Paul Antle and Cathy Bennett. Jim Bennett and Danny Dumaresque each garnered a small share if the vote.  

The theme of the day was all about how far the party has come since the disastrous loss in the 2011 general election, and a focus on preparing for the next election in 2015.

In total, the party signed up 38,006 new party supporters during the five month leadership race, and more than 23,000 of those people cast a ballot.

Party president Judy Morrow said the next two years are all about turning that list into a provincewide organization ready to contest the next election.

This Liberal race was a preferential ballot with each eligible voter ranking their choices, from first to fifth.

The race made for a much less divisive contest than in the past. With that in mind, many of the speeches focused on party unity, and the value of each of the five candidates.

Before the results were announced, all five if the candidates were called on stage for a friendly, upbeat chat about the highs and lows and memories from the campaign.

As candidates dropped off, they congratulated each other, and hugged.

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(Earlier story)

Results from a third and final ballot count are due shortly from the Delta Hotel in St. John’s, where Dwight Ball and Paul Antle are the only remaining candidates with a shot at winnning the Liberal leadership in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Leadership candidates Danny Dumaresque and Jim Bennett were dropped following the first ballot, while Cathy Bennett did not obtain enough support in preferential ballot voting to survive the second round.

Ball is in the lead with over 2,200 points following the second ballot, with Antle in second place with over 1,300 points. At least 2,401 points are needed to be declared the winnter.

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(Earlier story)

More than 23,000 Liberals cast votes for the party leadership as of 10 a.m. this morning, with more ballots rolling in during the closing hours of the campaign.

A handful of party members were gathered in the Delta Hotel ballroom this morning for routine party business sessions at the annual general meeting, but many, many more members were behind the scenes, working the phone lines to pull in last minute votes.

Cathy Bennett, Dwight Ball and Paul Antle are widely considered to be the frontrunners in the race. Jim Bennett and Danny Dumaresque are also on the ballot.

Behind the scenes, party members and campaign workers from all five camps are speculating about how the candidates will fare on the ranked ballots cast by party members and supporters.

The candidates with the least support will be dropped from the race, and the votes cast for them will be distributed to the voters' second- third- or fourth-ranked choices.

Every camp seems to agree that winning a big share of those second-choice voters will be key to the whole race.

Around 10 a.m., The Telegram was given a tour of the election control centre run by private contractor InteliVote, a company which has run electronic elections in B.C., Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and New Brunswick.

There are actually 38,006 eligible Liberal voters. The party had previously reported that there were around 37,000 eligible voters, but that number went up after appeals.

As of around 10 a.m., 23,174 eligible voters cast ballots – 61 per cent voter turnout so far.

It wasn't all about the leadership, though.

Party President Judy Morrow gave her annual report, and she said that regardless of who the next leader is, the party needs to work on building district associations and raising money in preparation for the next election.

Party treasurer Jeff Marshall used his report to call on members to sign up for automatic monthly contributions of $10 or $20.

Marshall said the party has relied on “feast or famine” fundraising in the past, and they're trying to move to a more reliable revenue stream so that the party can build and operate in a predictable way.

Marshall said that the party currently owes close to $800,000 in debt, and raising money to pay down that debt will be one of the first jobs for the new leader.

The party also debated policy resolutions dealing with post-secondary tuition fees, moose management and forestry management.

The leadership announcement is expected some time around 3:45 p.m. during the afternoon session of the convention.