Judy Klassen drops out of Manitoba Liberal leadership race

The race to become the new leader of the Manitoba Liberals has just three candidates after Judy Klassen dropped out to throw her support behind Burrows MLA Cindy Lamoureux.

Member of the legislature for Kewatinook declares support for Burrows MLA Cindy Lamoureux

Burrows MLA Cindy Lamoureux, left, will get support from Kewatinook MLA Judy Klassen in her leadership bid. (CBC)

The race to become the new leader of the Manitoba Liberals has just three candidates after Judy Klassen dropped out to throw her support behind Burrows MLA Cindy Lamoureux.

Klassen and Lamoureux held a joint news conference late Tuesday morning.

"I'm really excited to be here with my friend and colleague, Cindy, Manitoba's future youngest premier, and a female to boot," Klassen said. 

"In Cindy, I see a passion and an eagerness to learn and a dedication and a strong work ethic — all the things we need for a great leader going forward. And personally, I just want to focus on my constituency. They've mostly been ignored for many decades."

Klassen said her constituency has recently dealt with a suicide, a murder and a fatal rollover, all of which made her want to shift her focus.

"I'm so grateful for the support that Judy continues to demonstrate and I'm inspired by her commitment to serve her constituents," said Lamoureux.

Klassen became interim leader after Rana Bokhari — who failed to win her seat in the legislature during the 2016 provincial election — resigned. Klassen later stepped down to run for the permanent position.

At that time, the party announced it would not appoint another interim leader before the Oct. 21 convention.

Discussion about uniting: Lamoureux

​River Heights MLA and former leader Jon Gerrard and communications advisor Dougald Lamont are also running for the Liberal leadership.

Lamoureux hinted Gerrard's bid goes against a discussion she, Klassen and Gerrard had months ago — before any of them launched their leadership bids — about uniting.

"The three of us had a discussion about one of us making the decision [to run], and that had been me. And we were going to all get onboard," said Lamoureux, who was the first leadership candidate.

"In politics, we have a rule of thumb — nothing is ever official until it's made official … It was a conversation that Jon, Judy and I had had, and things change sometimes."

Gerrard said there was never any firm agreement with his caucus colleagues.

"There was talk of a variety of options," he said.

'A little behind' but not worried: Gerrard

​Royce Koop, who teaches political studies at the University of Manitoba, said Lamoureux appears to be the front-runner in the race, having taken a legislature seat from the NDP last year and sold hundreds of memberships in advance of the leadership convention.

"She's demonstrated that she can actually … do the things you need to do to win this kind of race," Koop said.

Gerrard, who led the party between 1998 and 2011, has a built-in base which will make him competitive, Koop added, while Lamont has become a known entity in Liberal circles since running in 2013.

Gerrard said while he may be "a little behind" Lamoureux, he's not worried. He said he has Liberal members across the province rooting for him.

"We're building momentum," he said. 

"I'm the person who's got a lot of experience, who's got knowledge of the people."

With files from The Canadian Press and CBC's Up to Speed