Local Grits gear up for leadership vote

This article was originally published in the Daily Gleaner on Thursday, October 4th, 2012, by STEPHEN LLEWELLYN. I’m re-posting it here for my own portfolio.

The excitment is mounting for hundreds of Fredericton Liberals as they get ready to chose a new leader at the end of this month.

The party’s new one-member-one vote selection process means casting a ballot will be as simple as clicking a computer mouse, activating a cellphone, making a phone call or mailing a letter.

But it doesn’t mean the leadership convention in Moncton on Oct. 27 won’t attract a couple of thousand delegates with the usual hats, signs, music and political speeches, say local riding presidents.

“They’re excited after coming off of 2010,” said Mike Girard, president of the Liberal Fredericton-Fort Nashwaak Riding Association, about the mood of his members.

“To say it (the provincial election result) was a bit of a downer in the association is putting it mildly … But as the convention’s gotten closer, certainly my membership anyway is getting very excited.”

Girard also said there’s a sense of relief the leadership campaign is almost over.

“It’s been a long process,” he said.

“Usually there is a delegate format, and it is not a very long race … This one has been going on for almost two years. People are getting ready for it to be over and move forward into 2014.”

Running for the Liberal leadership are Moncton lawyer and former Graham government Health minister Mike Murphy, Moncton lawyer Brian Gallant and Belledune dairy farmer Nick Duivenvoorden.

The leadership convention is being held at the Moncton Casino.

Brent Melanson, president of the Liberal Fredericton-Lincoln Riding Association, said 19,000 Liberals provincewide have registered to vote.

“It really is huge,” he said.

“It is a testament to, I think, not only the three candidates, but also the renewal process which was started after the last election … Part of that renewal process wanted better communications.”

That led to the decision to move to a one-member-one-vote process, he said.

“There’s been some resonance within the province with respect to that,” said Melanson.

“There is that flexibility that you can vote from anywhere in the province electronically, by cell phone, by ballot.”

The deadline to sign up to vote for a new Liberal leader was Sept. 28.

Melanson said the convention will still have a sense of excitement.

“What I’m hearing within my riding is that a lot of people intend to go,” he said.

Allison Wrynn, president of the Liberal Fredericton-Nashwaaksis Riding Association, said there is a leadership buzz in his riding.

Some local riding members have backed off a little bit in terms of political activity since the big Tory election win two years ago, he said.

“There were some people who were on the list who were very enthusiastic for T.J. (Burke), who was our candidate last election,” said Wrynn.

“Since that time they said, ‘Well, we’re still going to vote Liberal, but we don’t know if we are that keen on participating (in the leadership convention)’ … That’s fine.”

Marty Mockler, president of the Liberal Fredericton-Silverwood Riding Association, said he isn’t sure how many people will be going from his riding to the convention because of the ability to vote from anywhere in the province.

“I think there is going to be a lot of that,” he said.

“But what it has done in Fredericton-Silverwood is that the people that have now joined the party seem to be very committed to working for the party … You can feel a different vibe in it. Before you had a lot of people who were members but they weren’t active.”

He said he expects about 2,000 Liberals to attend the convention in Moncton, and that’s still a good size.

Girard said opening up the voting process was the right thing to do.

“Not everyone can get there, especially if you are from the north,” he said.

“There will definitely be a lot of buzz on the floor.”

Voting on the web is especially attractive to younger riding members, said Girard.

“One of the things I’m hoping we’ll see out of this is that … the campuses will be organized and we’ll see a lot of youth vote,” he said.

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