Many veteran Liberals are lining up behind a relatively unknown 29-year-old lawyer who is running to lead the party after its disastrous 2010 election defeat.
Brian Gallant, a lawyer from Shediac Bridge, became the third candidate in the race to replace Shawn Graham as the Liberal Party’s leader on Wednesday.
Gallant won some headlines in 2006 when he ran unsuccessfully against then premier Bernard Lord in his Moncton East riding.
The young lawyer’s political profile dropped off in the intervening years, but he brought out several high-profile Liberals to endorse his candidacy.
Federal MP Dominic LeBlanc, who is considering a run for the federal Liberal leadership, and Mary Schryer, a former health minister, are Gallant’s campaign co-chairs.
There are familiar faces, such as Jack Keir, the province’s former energy minister, already signing up to Gallant’s team. As well, current MLAs, such as Miramichi-Bay du Vin MLA Bill Fraser are early backers of the young lawyer.
But given how many Liberal members are still bitter about the role of backroom advisors in the Graham government, Gallant himself played down the presence of big-name Liberals at his five campaign launch events around the province.
"And to see some new people I've never seen at Liberal events, or I've never really seen at political events, was the more exciting part."
Drew Speight, a Fredericton Liberal, complained last year that backroom insiders had too much clout when Graham was premier.
Speight said Gallant is not the candidate of the Liberal establishment.
"Having observed him with those people, I can tell you that nothing is further from the truth. He walks into a room and it's very clear that he's in charge," Speight said.
Gallant didn't make any specific policy proposals during his Wednesday launch events. He said he wants to consult with the public before he outlines those concerns.
"I'm not going to go around and spit out policy suggestions every chance I get. I'm going to try to get as much information and see what people think before doing any type of policy announcements," Gallant said.
Three official candidates
Gallant's the third candidate after Michael Murphy, a Moncton lawyer and former health minister, and Nick Duivenvoorden, the ex-mayor of Belledune.
Kelly Lamrock, a Fredericton lawyer and former education minister, is also considering a potential run for the party's leadership.
Murphy was considered an early front-runner because of his campaign organization that he has assembled in recent months.
When Murphy officially announced his leadership bid in January, he outlined several specific policy proposals, a contrast to Gallant's decision not to release any policy options.
The Moncton lawyer promised an environmental charter of rights for the province and a policy that would make northern New Brunswick a tax-free zone for businesses.
Murphy also has several current caucus members endorsing his leadership bid, including Moncton East MLA Chris Collins, Bathurst MLA Brian Kenny and Charlotte-The Isles MLA Rick Doucet.
Shediac-Cap-Pele Liberal MLA Victor Boudreau is the party's interim leader.
The Liberals will elect their new leader in October.