Liberal Sam Slade reclaimed a longtime party stronghold by knocking off Tory Jack Harrington in Tuesday's byelection in the district of Carbonear-Harbour Grace.

Slade polled 2,769 votes to Harrington's 2,313. The NDP's Charlene Sudbrink was not a factor, placing a distant third with 410 votes.

The Liberal win marked a dramatic turnaround compared to the last two elections in the district, both won by former MHA Jerome Kennedy who twice took about 75 per cent of the vote.

But Harrington, Kennedy's former executive assistant in the district, managed to poll only a fraction of that.

Some felt Slade might be penalized for jumping to provincial politics only weeks after being re-elected mayor of Carbonear. The town council had agreed to give him a leave of absence to run in the byelection, and his win means the town will now have to find a new mayor.

The win provides a big boost for the Liberals and their new, full-time leader, Dwight Ball.

By contrast, it's a big blow for the governing PCs, having lost a seat that had been comfortably held by former finance minister Kennedy until he resigned in early October to return to his law practice.

The NDP, meanwhile, showed little sign of recovering from the departure of two caucus members last month over the leadership of Lorraine Michael.

The win gives the Liberals eight seats in the house of assembly, compared to the Tories' 35, and the NDP's three. The two former NDP MHAs are now sitting as independents.