Murphy positioning for Liberal leadership bid

New Brunswick's Liberals still have not decided if they will elect a new leader in 2011 but one potential candidate is already positioning himself for a leadership bid.

New Brunswick's Liberals still have not decided if they will elect a new leader in 2011, but one name has already surfaced as a potential candidate.

The Liberals were left without a permanent leader when former premier Shawn Graham resigned following the Sept. 27 electoral drubbing.

While a date has not been set to select a new leader, there is growing speculation over who will be in that contest.

Former cabinet minister Mike Murphy is among the crop of potential contenders.

For Murphy it would be a return to politics after the Moncton lawyer suddenly quit as an MLA early in January 2010, leaving the Liberals without one of their highest-profile cabinet ministers during the controversy over the plan to sell NB Power.

Lately, Murphy has been writing opinion articles in newspapers, and using social media, to comment on politics.

Many political watchers expect he will run for the Liberal leadership, including, Premier David Alward, who started teasing Liberals about it in the legislature in December.

"The other leader out there, Mr. Mike Murphy, left the previous government because of a disagreement on the sale of NB Power," Alward said.

However, when Murphy walked out on the Graham government, he suggested it was not about the controversial sale and he simply wanted to return to his law practice and his family.

"This has nothing to do with any initiative of government. I am a supporter of this government," Murphy said on Jan. 4,  2010.

If Murphy does run to lead the Liberal party he'll have to explain whether he really did quit over the NB Power sale. And if that was the reason, the party will have to decide whether to embrace someone who left the government when things got difficult.

Considered leadership bid in 2001

Murphy was dogged by questions, primarily by the Progressive Conservatives, between 2003 and 2010 over whether he was quietly trying to usurp power from Graham.

The questions started because Murphy aborted an earlier attempt to run for the leadership, which Graham eventually won.

Murphy was soliciting support for a leadership bid in 2001 after former premier Camille Theriault resigned.

Although he was considered a frontrunner, he suddenly dropped his name out of the leadership race, saying at the time he wanted to focus on his family and work reasons.

Murphy ran in the 2003 election and won a seat. Graham offered Murphy a series of high-profile party positions during their time in opposition and government.

However, the Liberals were left with only 13 seats after the Sept. 27 election.

The Liberal party's executive has not yet selected a date to hold the leadership convention.

Victor Boudreau is serving as the party's interim leader.