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Rumble in Elmwood

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It's been a season of fun nominations and tonight could be the mack daddy. New Democrats will gather at Club Regent for what's already been a fairly petty battle for the party's nod in the federal riding of Elmwood-Transcona.

That's the riding held for decades by NDP elder statesman Bill Blaikie. The party lost it, embarrassingly, to Lawrence Toet's Tories in 2011 and hopes to recapture it next year. Seeking the nom is rogue MLA Jim Maloway, who made a brief leap to Ottawa and then lost to Toet, and Daniel Blaikie, son of Bill. Also running is lawyer Chad Panting, who is relatively unknown to Dippers in the riding but who appears confident of victory tonight.

Over the weekend, both Maloway and Panting sent out somewhat combative emails to members, fueling the perception the riding's NDP politics tend toward the childish.

Panting styles himself as "the only candidate to insure Victory 2015." In his email blast, Panting took swipes at Maloway for losing the constituency in 2011 and accused Blaikie of riding his father's coattails and being "worthy of being included in the dictionary under 'status-quo'." Panting has, in the past, also taken issue with the media calling Blaikie an electrician when he is not yet a journeyman.

Maloway also sent out some cryptic emails to members -- links to short stories about his departure, and the Wikipedia entries, cut and pasted without comment, for his 2011 election result and Rebecca Blakie's result in Winnipeg North that same year. The juxtaposition was either meant to remind area New Democrats that a Blaikie can't win (Rebecca is Daniel's older sister) or designed to reinforce the notion that Daniel is the party establishment's choice (Rebecca is national party president and Quebec campaign director.)

The emails, combined with Maloway's use of his MLA mailing privileges to send flyers throughout the federal riding, has prompted some frustrated fist-shaking among New Dems in the neighbourhood.

Despite this nonsense, and as much as many would like to see the back of Maloway, he should not be underestimated. He whips up support using relentlessly parochial issues such as Plessis Road, manages his memberships effectively, maneuvers supporters onto his riding association board and is fired up by an us-against-them mentality.

It is also not clear Blaikie has done what needs doing to defeat Maloway, and may be relying too much on the considerable cachet of his name. One New Dem told me a Maloway victory tonight would not be a surprise, even though local party members are growing increasingly tired of the veteran politician's antics.

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About Mary Agnes Welch

Mary Agnes Welch joined the Free Press in 2002, first covering city hall and then the Manitoba legislature before moving to her current post as public policy reporter. Before Winnipeg, she worked at the Windsor Star and the Odessa American, a small daily newspaper in West Texas. There, in addition to covering more than 20 counties, she took high school football scores from coaches all over West Texas by phone every Friday night.

Mary Agnes is a graduate of Columbia University’s journalism school. She has been part of two teams of reporters nominated for a Michener Award. In 2011, 2012 and 2013 she was nominated for a National Newspaper Award in the beat category.

She was a Southam journalism fellow at the University of Toronto’s Massey College in 2012-13, where she studied indigenous issues, urban planning and political science. She is also the former national president of the Canadian Association of Journalists and has served on several boards.

She once misspelled "Shih Tzu" in the paper and received 37 emails from angry dog-owners.

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