Two MP retirements in region opens door for rookies

first_imgNo matter what political party comes to power after the upcoming federal election, residents in the ridings of Chatham-Kent Leamington and Lambton-Kent-Middlesex will have a new representative in Ottawa.The departure of longtime Conservative MPs Dave Van Kesteren (Chatham-Kent Leamington) and Bev Shipley (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex) means two rookies will be elected when area residents go to the polls on Oct. 21.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the Governor General Wednesday morning to dissolve parliament, officially marking the start of the federal election campaign.But does this level the playing field for all of the candidates running in these ridings?“Open seats are open seats,” said Lydia Miljan, an associate professor of political science at the University of Windsor, “but a lot depends on who people can recruit to run in the incumbent’s seat and also for the other contenders.“The incumbent party still has a little bit of an advantage because they tend to have the most robust ground game and their lists are probably better.”She added that party likely had a more competitive nomination as well.“When you have that kind of interest, people perceive it’s not necessarily a safe seat, but it’s not as insurmountable as if you going against, say, a cabinet minister,” Miljan said.Leamington farmer Dave Epp won the Conservative nomination in Chatham-Kent-Leamington last November in a close contest with three other challengers.He is sure to face a strong challenge from Liberal candidate Katie Omstead, who was acclaimed in December 2018. She gave Van Kesteren a run for his money in the 2015 election, finishing a close second.Tony Walsh, who was also acclaimed in late August, is the NDP candidate for a second time. He finished a distant third in the last election.Rounding out the race in Chatham-Kent Leamington is Green Party candidate Mark Vercouteren, who finished last in the 2015 campaign, and People’s Party of Canada candidate John Balagtas.Lianne Rood won the Conservative nomination for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex in a tightly contested race in late March.There is a whole new slate of candidates for the other political parties running in the riding that spans three counties, including Jesse McCormick (Liberal), Dylan McLay (NDP), Anthony Li (Green Party), who also ran in the last year’s provincial election, and Bria Atkins (People’s Part of Canada).When it comes to running in large ridings, Miljan said having a good ground game is critical.“You have to have a really good, strong cadre of volunteers – people working the phones, people door knocking on your behalf in those big ridings,” she said.It’s also beneficial for candidates who had an earlier nomination, she said, adding those who spent the summer doing the legwork to prepare for the election have a bit of an upper hand.“There is nothing that compares with that personal contact in having the candidate come to the door and talk to people. That makes a huge difference in a lot of elections,” Miljan said.Another factor is the impact party leaders can have on elections in local ridings, particularly if a leader gets caught up in a scandal or some kind of controversy.When it comes to the SNC Lavalin affair involving former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, Miljan said the ethics violation is “squarely on (Prime Minster Justin) Trudeau.”But, she added, this issue is likely to be more top of mind in Wilson-Raybould’s riding than the Chatham area.However, when it comes to the same sex and abortion issues, Miljan described them as “dog-whistle tactics that the Liberals are putting on to put the Conservatives on the spot.”It’s not just Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer who’s being targeted, she said, adding the Liberals are “essentially making it fair game for other challengers in those ridings to put it on the ballot in a sense.”Miljan said abortion and same sex marriage seem to be issues that are resonating with the public, based on some news coverage she’s observed.“Those kind of messages have come through where people perceive that to be the case. So, it’s just the allegation alone (that) can taint a campaign,” she [email protected] @Chathamnewslast_img

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