The Liberal Party of P.E.I. has nominated its first official candidate for the coming election.
In a hotly contested nomination contest at the Eastern Kings Sportsplex on Tuesday night, past Liberal candidate Tommy Kickham defeated businesswoman Maureen Campbell-Hanley to become the party’s candidate for Souris-Elmira.
The nomination meeting was held amid speculation that Premier Wade MacLauchlan may call an election as early as this fall. Both the Green Party and the Progressive Conservative party have already held several nomination meetings.
Kent MacDonald, president of the Liberal riding association in Souris-Elmira, said the contest between Kickham and Campbell-Hanley brought a large turn-out to the meeting.
"I initially set up 260 chairs. And then we had the rink staff set up another 40 or 50 and some people were standing," MacDonald said.
MacDonald would not disclose how many delegates voted for either candidate but said 260 Liberal party members who lived in the riding cast ballots on Tuesday night. The riding’s Liberal membership doubled over the course of the nomination contest.
"We had two very strong contenders, and they both had a lot of supporters," he said.
The nomination meeting had originally been scheduled for late June but was re-scheduled due to a death in the family of one of the candidates.
Current PC MLA for Souris-Elmira Colin LaVie defeated Kickham during the last provincial election by 228 votes.
Kickham previously worked for the P.E.I. Mutual Insurance Company before retiring last year. He has served as a board member of the Eastern Kings Health Foundation and has volunteered with the Eastern Kings Exhibition and Big Brothers.
Campbell-Hanley worked as the head of operations for chef Michael Smith. She oversaw the publication of several of Smith’s cookbooks and has run several businesses in Souris, including Rite Bite Cafe, the Platter House, Scallywags & the Scoop at Basin Head.
Despite her loss, Campbell-Hanley pledged to support Kickham in the coming election.
"The minute I put in my nomination papers, I sent an e-mail to Tommy and said 'here's the deal: we both want the same thing'" she said in an interview.
Campbell-Hanley said she is considering putting her name forward as a political candidate in the future.
“I’ve kind of got a taste for it,” she said.
Kickham could not be reached for comment by deadline.