Nfld. & Labrador

Liberal Cathy Bennett wins Virginia Waters byelection

Liberal Cathy Bennett won the Virginia Waters byelection on Wednesday night, by 40 votes over Tory Danny Breen, according to Elections Newfoundland and Labrador.

Tory Danny Breen will make decision on recount in the morning

Cathy Bennett won the byelection in Virginia Waters on Wednesday night, beating out Tory Danny Breen and NDP candidate Sheilagh O'Leary. (CBC)

Liberal Cathy Bennett won the Virginia Waters byelection on Wednesday night, by 40 votes over Tory Danny Breen, results from the closely watched race show. 

Byelection results

  • Libs: 1,932
  • PCs: 1,892
  • NDP: 1,021

"This is the continuation of a Liberal surge — the work begins tomorrow," Bennett told supporters.

With all 40 polls reporting through Elections Newfoundland and Labrador, Bennett garnered 1,932 votes.

Bennett said in a speech at her campaign headquarters Wednesday night that she "won't let the district down."

Despite the close margin, Bennett felt her campaign had a strong showing and she is looking forward to taking her seat as an MHA. 

I'm not afraid of any Dannys- Cathy Bennett, referring to Tories Danny Breen and Danny Williams

"I think this is a very important seat for the Liberal party, but I think it's really an important victory for the people of Virginia Waters," Bennett said.

"It's been a district that's had a tremendous amount of campaigning over the last number of weeks, and I think my job as the new MHA is to go out and continue to earn the respect and confidence of the people."

The win makes this seat number 12 in the House of Assembly for the Official Opposition.

Bennett brushed aside the role of former Tory premier Danny Williams, who campaigned with Breen and warned voters of the consequences of a Liberal win. 

"I'm not afraid of any Dannys," she said. 

Tight race between Bennett and Breen

Breen wasn't far behind Bennett with 1,892 votes, in a back-and-forth battle for the lead throughout the night.

"A loss this evening is an indication that much work needs to be done to gain back the trust of voters in Virginia Waters," Breen said on Twitter.
Danny Breen says he hasn't given any thought yet to running again provincially, and will be focused on resuming his work as a St. John's city councillor. (CBC)

"I am confident the current government will represent the interests of Virginia Waters as much as any other."

Breen told reporters he was confident that his campaign did everything it could, and played down the fact that Bennett had started campaigning in the district last fall had much to do with his loss.

"I think that the head start that [Bennett] had might have had some bearing on it, but we saw the momentum shift back towards me in the past week or so considerably, and I guess it just never shifted back."

Breen said he hasn't made any decisions about running provincially in the future. He had taken an unpaid leave of absence as a St. John's councillor. 

O'Leary: Loss 'disappointing'

NDP candidate Sheilagh O'Leary conceded defeat even as votes were still being reported. She finished the night with 1,021 votes. 

"Obviously, the first reaction is disappointment," O'Leary said.

"But you know what, it has been, I have to say honestly it has been a phenomenal experience. The campaign team that I had were real true professionals."

NDP candidate Sheilagh O'Leary says she's disappointed at she lost the Virginia Waters byelection, but she will hold Cathy Bennett to her campaign promises. (CBC)
O'Leary said she was disappointed she wouldn't be able to represent the people of Virginia Waters, but said she congratulates Breen, and Bennett on her win.

"I certainly will hold her to task. I hope she does the job that she has proclaimed that she will do," she said.

Premier says PCs 'are back' despite loss

With the PC loss of the Virginia Waters district, this is the second house of assembly seat lost to the Liberals in two straight byelections.

The Liberals unseated the governing Tories during the Carbonear-Harbour Grace byelection in November, after then-finance minister Jerome Kennedy resigned his seat.

But Premier Tom Marshall said that such a close vote means the PCs "are back in the game."

Polls closed in the district at 8 p.m. in one of the most closely watched byelections in years. Early poll results showed the lead slipping back and forth between the Liberal and Progressive Conservative candidates.

For the play-by-play of byelection night, check out our liveblog below.


With files from David Cochrane, Peter Cowan and Mark Quinn


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