Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Newfoundland and Labrador Tories Launch Fresh Contest after Leadership Debacle

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Newfoundland and Labrador Tories Launch Fresh Contest after Leadership Debacle

Article excerpt

Newfoundland Tories revamp leadership race


ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - It's Take Two for Newfoundland and Labrador's governing Tories as they launch a fresh leadership race after the debacle that was their first attempt.

Progressive Conservatives and their critics alike have compared Take One to an embarrassment at best, a political Gong Show at worst.

"Some would say you couldn't write the sequence of events like that if you were to try," Paul Davis said last week as he gave up his post as health minister to contend.

Nominations close Monday. But Davis and another cabinet minister, Steve Kent, have so far stepped up along with John Ottenheimer, a former Tory government minister of health and other portfolios.

Kent resigned as municipal affairs minister to run. The winner will be chosen Sept. 13 at a delegated convention in St. John's. An election is expected some time in 2015, if not sooner.

It's a far cry from the first leadership contest that attracted not one high-profile Tory. It was triggered when former premier Kathy Dunderdale quit in January after a slide in the polls and her handling of power blackouts raised doubts about her leadership.

Premier Tom Marshall took over on an interim basis but wants to retire.

Progressive Conservatives have held a majority in the legislature since 2003 but trail the Opposition Liberals in recent polls. They've also lost three byelections, two in former Tory strongholds.

Just three caucus outsiders lined up to take Dunderdale's place before a string of bizarre incidents left political neophyte Frank Coleman as the only candidate left standing in the race.

The successful businessman from Corner Brook faced a media barrage over his pro-life views and a government contract involving one of his former companies. He shocked even Tory insiders when he suddenly withdrew last month, nixing a planned coronation.

Coleman cited an undisclosed family matter for his decision.

He became the sole contender after the party ejected one of his two opponents, retired naval officer Wayne Bennett, for Twitter posts that compared his online critics to Muslim terrorists.

The other challenger, fishery magnate Bill Barry, dropped out after saying the race was stacked in Coleman's favour. …

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