Advance polls drew a heavy turnout for the Carbonear-Harbour Grace byelection on Tuesday, while candidates continued to work hard to get their supporters out to vote in time for next week's ballot.
The seat was left vacant when Jerome Kennedy, the district's MHA and the former finance minister, resigned from politicsin October to return to a law career.
Turnout for the advance poll on Tuesday was significantly higher than in the 2011 general election. The electoral office said 775 people cast ballots in the advance poll, more than 50 per cent higher than the 516 votes cast in the last election.
Progressive Conservative candidate Jack Harrington, who spent years as Kennedy's assistant, acknowledges the Tories have had trouble in recent public opinion polls, and that he needs to fight to keep his seat.
"This is not about a change of government, this is about a byelection," said Harrington. "We still have two, two and a half years left in our mandate with a lot of work that needs to be completed and done that was started."
Meanwhile, the provincial Liberals are coming off the high of selecting a new leader last weekend, which Sam Slade, the local Liberal candidate, hopes will boost his chance of winning the seat.
Close race expected
Political insiders have said they expect next week's byelection to be a close race.
Harrington said one advantage of voting Tory is having a voice on the government side.
Slade, who stepped aside as the mayor of Carbonear when the byelection was called, disagrees, adding "people [should get] some good representation so some people's concerns are recognized."
Slade is well-known in the area from two decades of municipal politics in Carbonear, but the PC government has put substantial funding into the district.
NDP candidate Charlene Sudbrink was a latecomer to the campaign, but she has been trying to make the by-election a three-way race.
She said recent divisions within the provincial NDP, including the departure of two MHAs over Lorraine Michael's leadership, have not been hurting her on the ground
"I thought it may," said Sudbrink. "But once I got out canvassing and Lorraine was with me, she's got nothing but respect from people —people are actually running to her and hugging her and saying how wonderful she is and they admire her."
Voters say they have been expecting the parties to bring out more leaders and cabinet ministers during the next few days to help the candidates out.
The byelection is slated to happen on Nov. 26.