Gwen O’Mahony was elected Saturday over two nomination rivals to lead the NDP charge in the upcoming Chilliwack-Hope byelection.
O’Mahony’s first-ballot victory came after a rousing campaign speech by NDP Leader Adrian Dix to a crowd of about 150 that included several NDP MLAs who attended the meeting at the Lions’ Club Hall in Chilliwack.
But among that crowd only 32 party members living in the Chilliwack-Hope riding were eligible to vote. The winner needed a 50 percent plus one majority to take the nomination.
O’Mahony said her nomination is a chance to carry on the work she began as the NDP candidate in the Chilliwack-Hope area in the last federal and provincial elections, and as a local party activist between elections.
“I have built that really important ground work … necessary to sail us through the next election,” she told delegates. “All I’m asking from you today is to allow me to finish what I started three years ago.”
Dix said the party will throw the resources of a full election campaign into the 28-day byelection to win the traditionally conservative Chilliwack-Hope riding.
“This byelection is an opportunity to send a message to the government that has lost its way, that is out of touch, that has forgotten what its role is in the community,” he said.
He said an NDP win in the riding long held by the BC Liberals would send “a message of hope and change across B.C.”
“If we can do it here, we can do it everywhere,” he said.
No date has been set for the byelection.
Sue Hammell, NDP MLA in Surrey-Green Timbers, also said the party has an “unprecedented opportunity” to win an upset victory and send an NDP MLA to Victoria.
Almost $10,000 was raised at the meeting to begin campaigning.
“We are not going to lose (the byelection) because we can’t compete on money,” Hammell said.
Rollie Keith, who carried the NDP flag as the party’s candidate in several past elections, urged party members to donate their time as campaign volunteers in the byelection, as well as contributing funds.
“This can be the victory we’ve waited for for decades, generations even,” he said.