Toronto-area lawyer Leslyn Lewis is not the new Conservative Party Leader, but she was the choice of party voters in Saskatchewan.
Lewis finished ahead of new Conservative Party Leader Erin O'Toole among party members who cast a ballot in Saskatchewan.
Lewis was knocked out after the second ballot in Sunday's leadership vote, but her supporters backed O'Toole over Peter MacKay by a margin of nearly four-to-one when she was eliminated.
O'Toole received more points than MacKay and became the party's new leader, replacing Regina MP Andrew Scheer.
MacKay was seen as the early front-runner in the race but he was a distant fourth among Saskatchewan voters.
After the first ballot, Lewis showed strong support, not only in Saskatchewan but also in Alberta where she placed second behind O'Toole.
"The support that Lewis built in this campaign — and the voters O'Toole courted — will be difficult to ignore. Lewis raised about $2 million and, after Sloan's elimination, had more raw votes than either O'Toole or MacKay on the second ballot. She was the top choice on that ballot across Western Canada," said CBC poll's analyst Éric Grenier.
O'Toole was chosen through a ranked ballot system — one that awards points to each candidate — rather than counting up votes.
Each of Canada's 338 federal ridings is assigned 100 points, meaning a total of 33,800 points were up for grabs. O'Toole needed at least 16,901 points to win.
Conservative party points in Sask. were divided as follows:
- Leslyn Lewis: 554 points.
- Erin O'Toole: 369 points.
- Derek Sloan: 252 points.
- Peter MacKay: 224 points.
Prime minister Stephen Harper's former director of communications Kory Teneycke predicted in a CBC column last month that Lewis would win in Saskatchewan.
Teneycke said Lewis' supporters were not just socially conservative, they were "excited to support an urban, well-educated, professionally accomplished, Black woman as a candidate."
Lewis support 'big surprise' says prof
Jim Farney, department head of politics and international studies at the University of Regina, said Lewis' showing was an "out of nowhere run" for someone not in Parliament and a virtual unknown at the start of the race.
"The big surprise last night was how well Leslyn Lewis did. On the second ballot (Lewis) actually had more individual votes than anyone else."
Farney said Lewis appealed to social conservatives, campaigned well and was lively and engaging.
"I think a lot of conservatives wanted to hear a traditionally conservative message or a very conservative message from a Black immigrant woman, that was pretty appealing"
"Lewis was virtually unknown before the beginning of the race and she finished first, so obviously that was quite stunning," said Daniel Béland, Director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada.
Béland said the two socially conservative candidates, Lewis and Ontario MP Derek Sloan, had a different approach.
"Lewis had a much more subtle approach, was a friendly face of social conservatism in a way and someone who looked more open-minded and really added that kind of different image to conservatism. Sloan was pretty abrasive and some of his comments were perceived as you know really incendiary."
Béland said Lewis' strong showing in the west and north did not translate to Quebec because she is not bilingual.
"If you don't speak French — and she doesn't — then that's a huge handicap."