David Coon stepped into the history books in Monday's provincial election, winning the hotly contested Fredericton South riding and giving the Green Party its first-ever seat in the New Brunswick Legislature.
Coon won the four-way race with 31 per cent support, compared to 26 per cent for outgoing Energy Minister Craig Leonard of the Progressive Conservatives.
Liberal Roy Wiggins finished third with about 22 per cent of the vote, while high-profile Liberal defector Kelly Lamrock, running for the NDP, was in fourth in the race at 20 per cent.
Coon, 58, is only the second Green Party candidate to win a seat in a provincial legislature in Canada. Andrew Weaver won a seat for the Greens in British Columbia in 2013.
"I think that in our riding, people voted for the person and voted for the principles of the Green Party that I stand for," Coon said.
He pointed to people being upset with the Alward government's deal with forestry companies and civil servant unrest over changes to the provincial government pension plan.
"I think it was a combination of things that pushed people over the edge and said we have a breath of fresh air."
National Green Party Leader Elizabeth May paid tribute to Coon, saying he has "won the trust and confidence of so many people in New Brunswick."
"I am, no matter what happens tonight, forever in his debt," she said.
May campaigned with Coon in Fredericton South on two occasions during the campaign.
"Voting Green is not a protest vote. Voting Green is a vote for something you want."
A win for Coon stands to boost the Greens ahead of the New Democratic Party in New Brunswick's political world as the New Democrats failed to win any seats and saw leader Dominic Cardy announce his resignation in his concession speech.
Coon's goals for the Green Party going into the election were two-pronged — to win a seat in the legislature and to double the party's support to nine per cent of the popular vote.
The Greens did see their popular vote climb, reaching about 6.6 per cent. The party didn't achieve the nine per cent target, but Coon's breakthrough in Fredericton South was enough to make the election a success for the Greens.
This was Coon's first attempt at elected office after a career spent with the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, where he was a leading environmental watchdog on matters of public policy in the province.
Coon took over as the leader of the Greens in September 2012.
Even without a seat in the last legislative session, Coon was a leading voice of opposition to the Alward government's decision to allow the forestry industry to cut 20 per cent more softwood trees on their Crown timber allocation. He's also been a staunch opponent to the Alward government's push to develop a shale gas industry.
Coon wasn't the only leader of a smaller party to post a strong showing.
Kris Austin of the People's Alliance party finished a strong second in Fredericton-Grand Lake, coming within 27 votes of winning a seat.
Incumbent Pam Lynch won with 2,403 votes to Austin's 2,377.
Liberal Sheri Shannon was in third place with 2,330 votes.
This was the second provincial election for Austin and his populist People's Alliance party, which formed in the leadup to the 2010 election over frustration that the then-Liberal governments planned to sell NB Power to Hydro-Québec.
Although the Liberals eventually abandoned the NB Power sale, the People's Alliance has remained on the fringes of the political scene in the province.