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Premature Gesticulation?

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WINNIPEG — NDP leadership hopeful Steve Ashton spiced things up on Monday for countless journalists when he issued a news release that pretty much settled the matter of who was going to win the race to succeed Gary Doer.

"Ashton in lead for Delegates: Possible win on first ballot"

Hold on there Steve. We’re still a few days away from the membership selling deadline, and more than a month away from the convention. Not a single delegate has actually been selected yet. What could he be possibly talking about?

It turns out Steve has signed up a lot of new members. Since the campaign began a little less than two weeks ago, the former cabinet minister claims he has signed up 1,100 new members. With the 10-1 formula of memberships for every delegate, that’s a cool 110 delegates.

And while that’s impressive, it’s a drop in the bucket in terms of the number of potential delegates. In fact, based on current membership numbers, there are enough members now to generate more than 1,000 delegates, including automatic delegates and the 20 per cent automatic delegate allotment to labor organizations. So, Ashton’s haul, at this stage, represents less than 10 per cent of the total eligible delegates.

And there is no certainty he will claim all 110 delegates. They are no doubt spread out over a number of riding associations and Ashton must win the votes at delegate selection meetings to get any of his people in those delegate spots. In fact, if he loses the vote, all he has done is put dozens of delegates into someone else’s camp.

There are a lot of people who think Ashton, a tireless organizer and relentless campaigner, will make noise in this campaign. And the delegate selection rules really allow for an unlimited number of delegates, both in total and per riding association. That means Ashton could challenge just by focusing his efforts on one or two ridings. But foolish news releases like this make him look decidedly not ready for prime time.

Everyone back to the campaign. Looks like we don’t have a winner just yet.

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