Tories weigh options as race to succeed Dunderdale begins

Several members of the governing Progressive Conservative caucus are exploring their options as a race to succeed departing premier Kathy Dunderdale quietly ramps up.
Members of the Progressive Conservative caucus watched Wednesday as Premier Kathy Dunderdale announced her decision to resign. (CBC )

Several members of the governing Progressive Conservative caucus are exploring their options as a race to succeed departing premier Kathy Dunderdale quietly ramps up.

No one in the Tory caucus openly admitted to having plans to enter a leadership race on Wednesday when Dunderdale announced she was stepping down as premier.

Dunderdale will turn over the reins of power on Friday to Finance Minister Tom Marshall, who will be retiring in the next election.

As many as five members of the caucus are being touted as possible contenders for the leadership, said On Point host and provincial affairs reporter David Cochrane.

To date, speculation has focused on Justice Minister Darin King, Natural Resources Minister Derrick Dalley, Child Youth and Family Services Minister Paul Davis, Fisheries Minister Keith Hutchings and Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Kent.

So far, none of the women in cabinet, including Susan Sullivan, Joan Shea and Charlene Johnson, have indicated they are interested.

Possible candidates, though, are playing down any leadership aspirations they may have.

"Today is Kathy Dunderdale's day," Davis told CBC News just after Dunderdale's speech at Confederation Building. "We'll have time to sort all those other matters out in the future."

Comment deferred on leadership interest

King, considered a frontrunner, did not comment at all on Wednesday. Dalley said that the focus in the party was currently on Dunderdale, and deferred comment on the leadership. 

Fisheries Minister Keith Hutchings says he may consider a run for the Tory leadership. (CBC )
​Hutchings, who is well-liked in caucus, did not rule out a bid.

"Those thoughts and discussions will go on over the next number of days, so at that point in time we'll certainly see where I'm to," he said.

Kent, who was appointed to cabinet in October, acknowledged he and others are gauging potential support.

"I'm sure there will be lots of us who are considering where we want to be in all of that at that time," he said.

Trevor Taylor, a former provincial cabinet minister in the Danny Williams government, said the best option for the governing Tories is to look outside the existing ranks.

"We need somebody from outside of the existing caucus to take over this party," he said.

"The best thing that could happen to the province is to have new blood, new leadership, and I think most people understand that."

Marshall will be sworn in as the province's 11th premier on Friday at Government House.


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