Paul Davis has announced his candidacy for the leadership of Newfoundland and Labrador's governing Progressive Conservatives, calling himself the “right person” for the job and issuing a call for a “new beginning” for the party.
Davis stressed the importance of listening and working together as he launched his campaign Wednesday evening.
About 200 people jammed into a recreation centre in Paradise for the announcement.
“This is a time for a new beginning,” Davis said. “It’s a time to set the tone for the future, to bring together the strengths of our party, the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador. It’s a time for us to continue our journey together.”
'This is a time for a new beginning. It’s a time to set the tone for the future, to bring together the strengths of our party, the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador.'- Paul Davis
The Tories, in power since 2003, have plunged in the polls since winning a big majority nearly three years ago under Kathy Dunderdale.
They have faced questions about government transparency and public perceptions of being out of touch.
And there has been internal drama in the PC party as well. Frank Coleman, the political outsider backed by MHAs and other insiders to take over as leader, opted out last month just weeks before he was set to become Newfoundland and Labrador's 12th premier.
Most staffers in the premier’s office were shown the door in May to clear the way for Coleman’s arrival.
Davis stressed his ability to act as a unifying force for the party, and get beyond the current travails.
“This is a leadership campaign about the future,” Davis said.
“One team, one direction.”
He also referenced his personal battle after being diagnosed with cancer three years ago.
"We’ve risen through the challenge with a renewed focus,” Davis said.
2nd candidate to enter race
Davis becomes the second candidate to officially enter the race. Former cabinet minister John Ottenheimer, who retired as an MHA in 2007, filed his papers on the first day nominations opened.
Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Kent is expected to become the third contender. Kent has a media event planned for Thursday evening.
Nominations close on July 7. Delegates will elect the new leader at a party convention in St. John’s on Sept. 13.
Davis already boasts endorsements from key cabinet colleagues.
Natural Resources Minister Derrick Dalley introduced him at Wednesday’s leadership roll-out, and sources tell CBC News that Justice Minister Terry French will also play a role in his campaign. French is viewed as one of the party’s top organizers.
MHAs Glenn Littlejohn and Wade Verge are also backing Davis.
Davis will campaign under the slogan: “Proven commitment, demonstrated results.”
Served as C.B.S. deputy mayor
Before making the jump to provincial politics in 2010, Davis served nearly a decade as a councillor and deputy mayor of Conception Bay South.
The former police officer had a 25-year career with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, including a stint as media relations officer, making him the public face of the force.
Davis retired from the RNC when he won the 2010 Topsail byelection, which was called after Elizabeth Marshall was appointed to the Senate.
Davis retained his seat in the 2011 general election. He was appointed to cabinet soon after, as the minister for Service NL. He has since held a number of portfolios, including transportation, child, youth and family services, and health.
Davis will have to leave cabinet to run for leader, according to the rules laid down by Premier Tom Marshall.
Earlier this year Davis opted against running for leader, choosing to back Coleman instead.
But Coleman’s shock decision last month to end his political career before it began, citing family reasons, threw the race wide open again.