Kevin Lamoureux has formed a second beachhead for the federal Liberals in Manitoba.
The spunky former Inkster MLA won the Winnipeg North byelection Monday night, seizing a longtime NDP stronghold and giving Michael Ignatieff's Grits a big morale boost in the process.
Lamoureux earned 7,303 votes compared with 6,508 for the NDP's Kevin Chief in a race that literally went back and forth all evening. All 153 polls had reported by about 9:50 p.m., and advance votes and institutional votes were also tallied.
Conservative candidate Julie Javier finished third with 1,645 votes.
A boisterous crowd of supporters — nearly 500 strong decked out in red and white T-shirts — went crazy when their hero finally entered the Punjab Banquet Hall on Mandalay Drive.
"Where do I start? I love you guys!" said Lamoureux. "From one seat to two seats. Watch us go now.
"I thank you from the bottom of my heart for trusting us and giving us this second seat in Winnipeg. I promise to make a difference."
Lamoureux, like his opponents, identified crime as the No. 1 issue in the riding while on the campaign trail, blasting the provincial NDP for failing to prevent the closure of two community policing stations in Winnipeg North. He also touted the formation of youth justice committees to sentence convicted youths and seek restitution for victims, and called for the establishment of community crime-prevention groups to advise police and all levels of government.
This fall, Lamoureux put his political career on the line, resigning as MLA for Inkster, a post he held on and off for 18 years, for a chance at a seat in Parliament.
He will join Winnipeg South Centre MP Anita Neville, who had been the lone Liberal from Manitoba, in the House of Commons.
"Tonight we demonstrated very clearly that the Liberal party can win in Western Canada," he said.
Lamoureux's accomplishment is especially impressive, as the Liberals won less than 10 per cent of the vote (9.2 per cent) in Winnipeg North in the 2008 general election, finishing third to the NDP and Tories.
The Winnipeg North byelection, one of three in Canada on Monday, was called after Judy Wasylycia-Leis resigned the seat to make what turned out to be an unsuccessful run for mayor of Winnipeg.
When Chief arrived at his post-election gathering at Club 13 on Main Street, the sombre crowd of New Democrats let out a big roar.
He was accompanied by his wife, Melanie, and nine-week-old son, Hayden.
"I was assuming everybody would be mad, so I brought my son to cheer everybody up," he joked. "But everybody seems like they are in great spirits."
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Chief, a 35-year-old educator and community leader, ran a strong campaign that engaged many citizens, young and old, in the political process for the first time. But as a political rookie, he lacked Lamoureux's profile.
Chief congratulated Lamoureux on his victory and called Wasylycia-Leis "a great mentor and friend."
"It was a very, very inspiring campaign," he said, referring to his success in engaging voters who had never participated in the electoral process.
Javier, the acting executive director of the Philippine Canadian Centre, ran a relatively low-profile campaign, declining to participate in all-candidate debates and generally avoiding face-to-face interviews with journalists.
Also contesting the seat were: Jeff Coleman for the Pirate Party, John Harvie of the Green Party, Frank Komarniski of the Communist Party and Eric Truijen of the Christian Heritage Party.
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.