Progressive Conservative Hugh John (Ted) Flemming capitalized on deep pockets of voter support in the southern half of the riding in order to win Monday’s byelection in Rothesay, an analysis of poll results shows.
Flemming held onto the longtime Tory seat, which was vacated when former energy minister Margaret-Ann Blaney quit politics in May.
The Progressive Conservatives earned 1,625 votes, followed by Liberal candidate John Wilcox with 1,328, NDP Leader Dominic Cardy with 1,158, the Green Party's Sharon Murphy with 69 votes, and independent candidate Marjorie MacMurray with 62 votes.
The Tories won the byelection even as they saw their level of voter support drop by roughly 18 percentage points between 2010 and 2012.
Click here to view an interactive map showing where each candidate had the most support.
The Progressive Conservatives won the riding with 38 per cent of the vote and had the most votes in 11 polls on election day.
Flemming held onto some of the party's strongest polls, such as Gondola Point Road near the riding of Quispamsis.
The Tories also won the polls in the southern part of the riding near the Riverside Country Club.
By contrast, the NDP's Cardy, who decided to run in the riding even though he doesn't live in the town, came in third with 27 per cent of the vote. But Cardy won the most votes in 10 polls despite coming in third overall.
The Liberals, meanwhile, only led in six polls but still managed to win 31 per cent of the vote. However, in one poll, Wilcox had 102 votes compared to only 15 for Flemming and eight for Cardy.
The Tories have a strong tradition of support in the southern New Brunswick riding. Since 1974, a Progressive Conservative MLA has held the riding, or its predecessor, for all but three terms.
'There have always been two [choices] and then the people who like the NDP. The independent voter never had three choices. And this shows that that mood and that opinion is changing.'—Lisa Hrabluk, political observer
The Liberals were hoping they could tap into some of the voter support that elected them between 1987 and 1999.
Meanwhile, Cardy was hoping his profile as the provincial NDP leader could convince local voters to elect him in the byelection.
Cardy said on Monday that his campaign, which relied on volunteers from around New Brunswick and the region, knocked on all the doors in the riding.
Lisa Hrabluk, a Rothesay-based freelance writer and political observer, said Cardy won a significant amount of support in some of the riding's more affluent areas.
If Cardy's NDP could replicate those voting patterns in a general election, Hrabluk said the NDP could find its way back into the legislative assembly.
She said Cardy was able to convince voters in areas, such as around the Rothesay Common, to lend their votes to the NDP.
"This is an acceptance in at least one byelection that there are three choices, every voter has three choices," she said.
"And we’ve never been like that in New Brunswick before. There have always been two [choices] and then the people who like the NDP. The independent voter never had three choices. And this shows that that mood and that opinion is changing."
Hrabluk said the Liberals and the NDP controlled significant portions of what is considered the "new Rothesay."
PCs gained early lead
The preliminary voting results show the two traditional parties garnered a significant number of votes early in the campaign.
While the NDP was competitive in the election day polls, the party's organization failed to turn out voters to the advance polls.
The Progressive Conservatives jumped out to an early lead in the four advance polls and in the special ballots collected by Elections New Brunswick.
Flemming earned 134 special ballots, compared to Wilcox’s 69 votes and Cardy’s 49 votes.
The PC candidate also scored well in early voting. Flemming earned 374 votes in the four advanced polls, compared to 240 for Wilcox and 201 for Cardy.