Wednesday, May 4, 2011

For a losing candidate, the morning after has a special kind of weariness

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
May 4, 2011


A skeleton crew pulls down signs, wipes clean a whiteboard, stacks cartons of pamphlets.

After the hoopla and the speeches, after the cheers and the tears, a handful of dedicated volunteers tidy up the debris of democracy.

The people have spoken and 36 British Columbians are on their way to Ottawa as members of Parliament. They are tired, but triumphant.

A larger group of candidates are recovering from campaign without the benefit of being victorious.

“You work just as hard when you lose as you do when you win,” Patrick Hunt said on Tuesday.

On election night, Mr. Hunt won the first poll reported in the riding. That was a cruel tease.

“One poll,” he acknowledged, “does not an election make.”

Mr. Hunt is one of 165 candidates in the province who learned late on Monday night that they did not get the job.

After months of shaking hands and kissing babies, of talking policy and listening to neighbours, they have concluded a chapter of their lives without the preferred ending.
“There’s a sag in my voice and in my step,” Mr. Hunt said

“The morning after is, What do I do with my day? Move some boxes. Help with cleanup.”

Mr. Hunt, a retired naval officer who is an information systems consultant, was nominated 18 months ago as the Conservative standardbearer in Victoria. The constituency, once a Conservative bedrock, sending Simon Fraser Tolmie to Ottawa six times, last went blue in 1984.

Mr. Hunt faced a popular incumbent in the NDP’s Denise Savoie, who, in the end, took more than half the vote. The Conservative took almost one in four votes.

Christopher Causton, the longtime mayor of Oak Bay, won just 14 per cent of the vote, suffering from his party’s national collapse. The lone scenario in which the underdog Conservative challenger could win depended on the Liberal draining votes from the NDP. The sneak attack on the right flank was not to be.

“It’s disappointing. A letdown,” he said.

At least he got to celebrate his party’s overall majority.

The opportunity to offer one’s name to B.C. voters attracted Communists and Libertarians, Pirate Partiers and Marxist-Leninists, independents and Rhinoceroses, as well as members of the Canadian Action, Christian Heritage, Western Blocker and Progressive Canadian parties.

Most knew they were longshots.

Some seem to be gluttons for punishment.

In Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca, Troy DeSouza, a lawyer, failed in his third attempt to win the seat. With more than 64,000 votes cast, he lost to the NDP’s Randall Garrison by just 406 votes. Three years ago, he lost by 68 votes.

Mr. Hunt prefers the experience of winning an election to losing one. He won election to the Nova Scotia Legislature at age 29 in 1978. After moving to Victoria, he ran as a Reform candidate in 1993. He finished second then, too.

This month’s unexpected campaign disrupted a planned two-week Caribbean holiday, during which he was to celebrate his daughter’s wedding.

In the end, the family event proved too irresistible. Mr. Hunt skipped the final weekend of campaigning.

To get to the wedding, he flew from Victoria to San Francisco to Houston to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and on to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He had timed the arduous journey so that he could catch a ferry to Tortola, the largest of the British Virgin Islands. At the ferry terminal, though, he discovered the scheduled had been changed. Desperate, he raced to a water taxi where, for $400, he caught a ride, clearing customs to arrive just 30 minutes before the ceremony was to begin.

“Felt like James Bond,” he said.

The following day, he ferried back to St. Thomas, flew to San Juan and on to Chicago and then Vancouver, where he had to stay overnight. On election day, he made the short hop to Victoria, where he cast his ballot before going to the campaign office.

After making his last get-out-the-vote telephone call, he went home for a quiet supper. As his sausages cooked, he prepared in his head two speeches for use later that night.

“One for winning,” he said, “and one for losing.”

He ended up giving the one he’d rather have skipped.

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