Bob Buckingham says Ryan Cleary wanted him to step aside
NDP says former MP floated idea of run in Virginia Waters-Pleasantville before bolting to the Tories
NDP candidate Bob Buckingham says he was asked whether he would step aside in Virginia Waters-Pleasantville in order to create an opening for Ryan Cleary, just days before the defeated MP defected to the Progressive Conservatives.
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Buckingham says he quickly rejected the request.
"He never contacted me personally, but last Friday and Saturday (Oct. 23 and 24) he made overtures to some people within the party, I understand, and asked if I would be willing to step aside, and some people came to me to inquire of that, and indicated that Ryan had an interest in running in the Virgina Waters-Pleasantville district," Buckingham told CBC News Tuesday.
A spokesperson for the NDP, Jean Graham, also confirmed Tuesday that Cleary personally broached the idea with party leader Earle McCurdy. McCurdy was in meetings Tuesday morning and could not be reached for comment.
"Earle said, 'No way,'" Graham noted.
Graham said if party supporters approached Buckingham about such a scenario, it was not at the direction of, or with the knowledge of, McCurdy or other top NDP officials.
"There were lots of places he could have run without taking out a perfectly good candidate," Graham said.
Cleary says 'absolutely not'
A few days later, reports began to surface that Cleary was in talks with the governing PCs.
And on Friday, Oct. 30, the one-term federal MP for St. John's South-Mount Pearl announced during a high-profile news conference that he was cutting ties with the provincial New Democrats, and would run for the PCs in the St. John's district of Windsor Lake in the Nov. 30 election.
Cleary declined an interview request Tuesday.
But during his Oct. 30 news conference, he was asked directly by CBC News whether he had approached the NDP about running in Virginia Waters-Pleasantville.
Cleary's response? "Absolutely not."
Cleary said at the time that he did speak with party officials, including McCurdy, "about a number of scenarios."
But he said he eventually decided he would run for the PCs in order to help fight off what many believe will be a provincial Liberal majority.
Cleary has 'rhinoceros skin', says Buckingham
Cleary's decision, just 11 days after losing to Liberal Seamus O'Regan in St. John's South-Mount Pearl, rocked the political landscape, and generated an immediate backlash from many of those who supported his previous campaigns.
Buckingham joined the critics on Tuesday.
"I just can't believe how someone could abandon and betray and turn their back on the volunteers and work that went into that campaign in such a short period of time," Buckingham said.
"I mean one has to have a rhinoceros-thick skin to be able to do that."