In a sweltering hot room at the Hub on Merrymeeting Road Tuesday night, 47 Tories turned out to cast ballots and help pick the next premier of the province.
Steve Kent, the only candidate for the race who showed up to the St. John’s Centre delegate selection meeting, wanted The Telegram to make it clear that more people turned up for the PC party meeting than the bingo game across the hall.
Tuesday was the first day for delegate selection meetings across the province, as the PC party re-runs its leadership race over the summer. Tories in St. John’s Centre had to elect eight delegates to go to the September convention in St. John's, where the next premier of the province will be elected.
Both John Ottenheimer and Paul Davis, the other candidates, were in Baie Verte, where another delegate selection meeting was taking place. A third meeting was happening Tuesday evening in Topsail, but that’s Davis’ home district, so no one showed up there and most people seemed to think the results were a foregone conclusion.
Speaking to all three candidates in the afternoon, Kent was the only one to explicitly acknowledge he’s running specific slates of delegate candidates at nomination meetings, trying to get his people elected to help him win at the delegated convention.
“It’s the nature of the process. This is a delegated convention. It’s about securing as many delegates as you can,” Kent said.
Davis said he wasn’t running formal slates of delegates, and there was no evidence of an organized group of supporters for him.
Ottenheimer also said he wasn’t planning on running slates of delegates, but that didn’t match up with the facts in the room at the Hub.
As Tory voters filed in and registered, they were each given a ballot and waited for the meeting to start at 8 p.m.
At one table, voters passed around a ballot which had already been filled out with several names. Other people at the table copied the names off that ballot onto their own.
All of this was done before the meeting started, and before candidates were formally nominated, so some sort of organization must have happened in advance if they knew who they wanted to vote for.
In the room at the Hub, most of the Tories were fairly tight-lipped.
“I’m not saying nothing,” one man said, when approached by The Telegram. Another youth specifically requested the photographer avoid taking his picture. A third man said he couldn’t speak on anything affiliated with the PC party because he’s a civil servant.
After a bit of cajoling, Mary Ann Corcoran offered to speak to the Telegram. She said that she’s supporting Ottenheimer, and she knew which delegates to vote for to support him.
Corcoran said that a big factor in her decision was Shawn Skinner, the former MHA for the district, who’s still holds two different positions on the district association executive as both secretary and treasurer.
“Shawn is a good guy, and I believe in him,” Corcoran said.
At the end of the evening, Skinner told the Telegram that seven of the eight potential delegates elected were Ottenheimer supporters; Kent got the other one.
At the meeting, several people talked about how 47 voters is a strong turnout on a summer evening in a district that doesn’t have a PC party MHA.
But if that kind of turnout is standard in districts across the province, fewer than 5,000 people will vote to help pick the next premier of Newfoundland and Labrador.
In the Liberal leadership race last year, more than 23,000 people voted to select Dwight Ball as leader of the Official Opposition.