Ontario Liberal Leadership: First round of voting puts Wynne, Pupatello in virtual tie

Leadership candidate Kathleen Wynne. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

The Ontario Liberal Party leadership convention became hyper-competitive the moment first ballot votes were announced, with Kathleen Wynne pulling within two delegates of frontrunner Sandra Pupatello.

But it didn’t stop there. Both Wynne and Pupatello appeared to pick up key endorsements, even as Ontario Liberal Party delegates in the former Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto marched off to cast their second-round ballot.

Wynne tightened the race into a virtual tie by scoring 597 of the 2,084 votes cast in the first ballot. Pupatello sat with 599 votes.

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The rest of the field broke down thusly:

  • Gerard Kennedy: 281 votes
  • Harinder Takhar: 235 votes
  • Charles Sousa: 222 votes
  • Eric Hoskins: 150 votes.

[ Related: Ontario Liberal leadership candidates make pitch to be premier ]

Holding the lowest number of votes, Hoskins was removed from future rounds of voting. It did not take long for the first-term MPP to throw his support behind Wynne. The endorsement will likely propel Wynne into the lead after the second round.

But a short time later, Pupatello appeared on her podium arm-in-arm with Harinder Takhar in what appeared to be an informal endorsement.

Takhar’s name will still be on the second-round ballot and there was confusion among his ranks as to whether a deal with Pupatello had even been reached. Expect the full effect of this alliance to be felt in the third round of voting.

[ Update: Why did Takhar drop out, join Pupatello camp? ]

As an aside, it was Kennedy’s camp that first started chanting “We want Eric,” on the convention floor. Editorially, that chant should be changed to “We NEED Eric,” but I digress. With two endorsements already snatched up by his frontrunning opponents, there is little margin for error going forward.

Kennedy told Yahoo! Canada News that he was satisfied with his support so far, and would continue hunting to pick up endorsements as the field shortens.

“We got everybody in. We got growth. We kept our share of the vote, and we are going to go from there. People are making up choices right now and that is where we are going to go from,” he said. “I think we are hoping for everybody right now.”

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