British Columbia New Democrats have elected left-leaning MLA Adrian Dix as their new leader as the party attempts to set itself apart from the three-term Liberal government.

Dix won on the third ballot against rival Mike Farnworth in the race to replace former leader Carole James.

How the ballots went

First ballot:

Dix — 7,683 (38%)

Farnworth — 6,979 (34%)

Horgan — 4,844 (24%)

Larsen — 531 (3%)

Second ballot:

Dix — 7,748 (39%)

Farnworth — 6,951 (35%)

Horgan — 5,034 (26%)

Third ballot:

Dix — 9,772 (52%)

Farnworth — 9,095 (48%)

Dix and Farnworth each presented party members with different visions for the party, as the NDP searches for a way to defeat the governing Liberals and their new leader, Christy Clark, in a provincial election that could come later this year.

Dix appealed to the party's left-wing base of community activists and labour unions, while Farnworth was seen as a moderate who would move the party closer to the centre to siphon votes from the governing Liberal party.

In his acceptance speech, Dix said he was looking forward to the NDP winning a majority government in the next provincial election.

"Let's do it, let's work on it, let's get it done together," he said to cheers.

After Dix's win, Farnworth said he had "absolutely no regrets."

"I'm going to get behind the new leader and go out and win the next election."

Led all the way

Dix, 47, led on all three ballots over second place finisher Farnworth, MLA for Port Coquitlam.

Farnworth hardly budged on the second ballot, actually losing a trickle of votes. His final total was 9,095 — 677 fewer than Dix.

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Mike Farnworth remained behind Adrian Dix by 600 to 700 votes on all three ballots. (CBC)

Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan gained 190 votes on the second ballot, but that wasn't nearly enough to stay in the running.

That left his 5,034 supporters to decide the winner, and they leaned in Dix's direction.

Marijuana activist Dana Larsen was dropped after the first ballot, where he had picked up just 531, or less than three per cent, of the votes.

Dix becomes B.C. opposition leader, replacing James, who resigned last December and MLA Dawn Black who had stood in since January as interim leader.

James quit last December in the midst of a public feud with dissidents within her caucus, a month after the surprise resignation of former premier Gordon Campbell, who announced his retirement as public anger over the harmonized sales tax continued to grow.

James took over the leadership seven years ago, after the NDP were reduced to two seats in the legislature. The party now holds 34.

More than 18,000 members cast ballots by phone and Internet in advanced polling, which ended Saturday night, said the NDP's provincial secretary, Jan O'Brien.

Those members cast preferential ballots, which will be distributed among candidates during subsequent voting rounds.

Members voting Sunday at the Vancouver Convention Centre cast fresh votes during each round.

With files from The Canadian Press