Kevin Klein wins tight Kirkfield Park byelection to hang on to legislature seat for Manitoba PCs
After leading for much of the night, NDP candidate Logan Oxenham finishes 160 votes back
For the second time this year, Manitoba's governing Progressive Conservatives eked out a byelection victory in Winnipeg.
PC candidate Kevin Klein trailed for the better part of Tuesday night before pulling ahead of Logan Oxenham of the NDP in the last of 48 polls for the right to represent the constituency of Kirkfield Park.
Shouts of "Kevin! Kevin! Kevin!" filled the room as Klein entered with his wife, Heather, at the Holiday Inn Airport West
"It's people from the community that are getting together that are talking about the decisions, and I want to continue to do that as the MLA now," Klein told reporters following his victory speech.
With a total of 2,356 ballots cast in his favour, Klein won 37 per cent of the popular vote, outdistancing Oxenham, who received 34 per cent of the vote with a 2,196 total.
Kevin Klein’s supporters are celebrating after their scrutineers say the PCs have won the Kirkfield Park byelection by a narrow margin. <br><br>Elections Manitoba has yet to officially declare a victory in the race. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/mbpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#mbpoli</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cbcmb?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#cbcmb</a> <a href="https://t.co/8vyjkrnwem">pic.twitter.com/8vyjkrnwem</a>—@ianfroese
Since the difference between the winner and the runner-up was not less than 50 votes, an automatic judicial recount will not take place.
Liberal candidate Rhonda Nichol stayed close to Klein and Oxenham for much of the evening, but finished third with 1,741 votes. Dennis Bayomi of the Green Party had 70 votes.
There were nine rejected ballots, according to Elections Manitoba.
Asked about his message to the majority of voters who didn't cast ballots for him, Klein said he respects their decision.
"In the next little while, I intend to prove myself as being the right choice, so when the next election comes, they will have no problem seeing that I'm the right person for Kirkfield Park," Klein said.
The byelection was triggered when former PC cabinet minister Scott Fielding announced his resignation in June.
Klein, a former city councillor for Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood, was third in the Winnipeg mayoral race in October, finishing behind Scott Gillingham and former mayor Glen Murray.
Klein jumped into provincial politics shortly after his failed mayoral bid.
Klein said during his campaign he plans to set his sights on, among other things, improving health care for his constituents, particularly as it relates to the Grace Hospital.
"I want to let [the residents of Kirkfield Park] know that this is the start. I won't back down. I will be there for you," he said. "Call any time."
Premier Heather Stefanson, who has announced support for a new intensive care unit at the hospital, introduced Klein's victory speech Tuesday night.
She said she's looking forward to her party winning the 2023 provincial election.
Congratulations to Kevin Klein on a hard-fought campaign to become the next MLA for Kirkfield Park!<br><br>I look forward to working with you in the Legislature on behalf of all Manitobans. <br><br>One thing is for sure: Manitoba does NOT want to go back to the dark days of the NDP. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/mbpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#mbpoli</a> <a href="https://t.co/f5vnRGEvEd">https://t.co/f5vnRGEvEd</a>—@HStefansonMB
A total of 6,372 votes were cast in the byelection, according to Elections Manitoba, for a turnout of 36.5 per cent. Of those, 2,231 were cast before election night in advance voting.
Despite coming up just short of an upset victory, Oxenham said he was thrilled with the result.
"We're very happy with the result here," he said. "It's a great tell of what's to come for Kirkfield Park."
"It's been a really successful campaign," Oxenham said.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew said the close victory for the Progressive Conservatives is a sign that the party is on shaky ground with Manitobans.
"You had a PC star candidate here in a seat that should be a safe seat for them, and Logan Oxenham, as part of the NDP team, told them that this is not a safe seat anymore, and we're coming for it in 2023," Kinew said.
Oxenham himself committed to running in the next provincial election, which is slated for next fall.
Kirkfield Park has historically elected Tory MLAs, with the exception of the period from 2007 to 2016, when the NDP's Sharon Blady held the seat.
This is the third byelection for the PC government under the leadership of Premier Heather Stefanson.
Eric Redhead captured the Thompson seat in the legislature for the NDP in July, which was left vacant after the death of New Democrat Danielle Adams in a highway crash.
Obby Khan won a tightly contested battle of former Winnipeg Blue Bombers, edging Liberal Willard Reaves last March in the Fort Whyte byelection, held to fill a seat vacated by former premier Brian Pallister.