Ben Levitt named Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas PC candidate ... again

Hamilton's most fraught election nomination came to an end tonight when Ben Levitt was named the candidate again.

Levitt won the nomination last May, but had to run again after allegations of tampering against PC officials

Ben Levitt, centre, reacts as Ontario PC party president Jag Badwal, left, announces his win. Vincent Samuel, right, also vied for the nomination. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The last time Ben Levitt won the Ontario PC nomination for Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas, it didn't look like this.

I definitely believe I have the mandate to be the candidate now.- Ben Levitt

All evening Tuesday, people got into orderly lines, speaking in quiet voices as they stepped to the tables and voted — 736 for Levitt, 195 for Vincent Samuel. That meant Levitt was once again named the new riding's PC candidate for the June 7 election.

Last May, cars lined up down the road. People clutched their ID, trying for three hours to vote. It was so disorganized that it prompted a police investigation. Last month, the party decided to hold a meeting all over again.

Tuesday was "much better run. A better location," Levitt said after his victory at the Ancaster fairgrounds. "I'm very blessed that the people of the riding have spoken once again, and I'm the candidate again, and I'm looking forward to getting going."

Levitt's repeat victory is a decisive chapter in the riding's tumultuous nomination process.

Ben Levitt, with other Hamilton Ontario PC candidates standing by in support, says the last nomination meeting was 'a flawed process.' (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Levitt, 26, a staffer in the office of Flamborough-Glanbrook MP David Sweet, was named the victor last May 4, but two challengers — Vikram Singh and Jeff Peller — alleged that party officials tampered with the vote.

The dispute involved months of legal challenges, secret recordings and the ongoing criminal investigation. In March, with Doug Ford established as the new leader, the party "set aside" the nomination.

Rich Gelder of Dundas, who voted both times, says this year and last year were so different they were "night and day."

Last May, the vote was at Ancaster High School. Gelder says traffic on Jerseyville Road was backed up so badly that he got out of the car and walked to the high school.

"Inside Ancaster High School itself, the lineup snaked around," he said. "It took me 45 minutes to get to the front of the line to vote."

On Tuesday, it took attendees about 10 minutes.

Vincent Samuel was the head of the local campaign to elect leader Doug Ford. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

​Singh, who claimed in court to be last year's rightful winner, was a quiet presence Tuesday. He wove through the crowd and talked to people he'd met on the 2017 campaign trail. Singh wanted to run again but the party's nomination committee rejected that.

The Dundas lawyer spent his own money fighting in court for a judicial review. He eventually dropped the pricey court case, issuing a statement saying the party could choose whomever it wanted as a nominee. The recording between himself and party brass never became public.

"Irrespective of what the result is for me personally, [I'm here] to maintain a loyalty to Hamilton and to continue participating and volunteering," he said Tuesday.

"I'm hoping that the voters choose with their conscience, and I hope the right candidate wins."

Levitt, who will run against incumbent Liberal MPP Ted McMeekin and NDP candidate Sandy Shaw, says this win should clear the air.

"I definitely believe I have the mandate to be the candidate now, and I'm looking forward to June 7 when the real battle begins."

About the Author

Samantha Craggs

Reporter

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca