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Chilliwack-Kent candidate announcement caused Green Party confusion over the weekend

City councillor Independent candidate Jason Lum ‘honoured’ to get Green candidate endorsement
Jason Lum, seen here in his Fraser Valley Regional District office on Jan. 15, 2019, will be running in the Oct. 24 provincial election as an Independent. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)

After days of uncertainty – and likely still more to come – Chilliwack city councillor Jason Lum formally made a statement about his candidacy as an Independent in the provincial election in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent.

Some confusion began on Friday as it became clear that Lum had filed his papers and would join the race, a move that prompted the BC Green Party candidate Jeff Hammersmark to informally stand down.

In a letter posted on Twitter and Facebook, Hammersmark said the desire among many progressives to defeat BC Liberal incumbent Laurie Throness, coupled with the much more well-known Lum entering the race, meant he should stop campaigning.

“If I continue to run a hard, energetic, passionate campaign, now against Mr. Lum, I believe it would only serve to help Mr. Throness win.”

That post was subsequently deleted.

Lum’s team was in contact with the BC Green Party all weekend, but it’s still unclear about Hammersmark’s status as a candidate.

Lum’s campaign responded late Sunday.

“It didn’t take long for Jason Lum’s candidacy to shake up the provincial election race in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent,” according to a statement issued to The Chilliwack Progress. “Lum’s candidacy was confirmed Friday as an Independent. Shortly after his announcement the BC Green Party Candidate in the riding announced his withdrawal from the race, citing Lum as the only credible alternative to defeating incumbent MLA Laurie Throness.”

Lum said he spoke with Hammersmark personally after he became aware of his decision.

“I was honoured to hear his praise for my environmental track record, and the endorsement of my work on council,” Lum said.

“Our campaign welcomes endorsements from those who share similar values and a desire to build an inclusive, socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable region. I acknowledge it’s a tall order to ask people to think outside of their traditional party box, but I believe the voters in Chilliwack-Kent are ready to unite together for positive change.”

Lum was the top vote earning councillor in the City of Chilliwack in the last election, setting a record for the most votes received. He has worked for city council on the Transportation, Public Safety, Innovation Network, and the Creative Commission, as well as recently co-chairing the Mayor’s Task Force on Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility.

He is also a four-term board chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD), and is past president of the Lower Mainland Local Government Association, and former director of the Union of BC Municipalities.

Hammersmark has not yet responded to a request to comment about his letter on social media that was later deleted.

He commented on the matter on a private Facebook page saying only this, before all comments on his pages ceased: “Unfortunately the chickens are already coming home to roost. Time to face the consequences of following my heart. Wish me luck.”

Pollster Mario Canseco told CTV News that he thinks Lum has an excellent chance at being a rare candidate to be elected as an independent.

“We haven’t had an independent since Vicki Huntington [who served two terms starting in 2009 in Delta South], but Lum was the top vote-getter for Chilliwack council in the last election, an immensely popular guy and somebody that has a chance in a riding that is already at play because of all the comments related to Laurie Throness of the Liberals,” said the Research Co. president.

Here are the five candidates for the riding of Chilliwack-Kent:

Eli Gagne - Libertarian

Jeff Hammersmark - BC Green Party

Jason Lum - Independent

Kelli Paddon - BC NDP

Laurie Throness - BC Liberal Party

READ MORE: All your 2020 B.C. Election coverage in one place

READ MORE: Which riding do you live in — Chilliwack or Chilliwack-Kent?

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Chilliwack city councillor Jason Lum announced he will run as an Independent in the 2020 provincial election in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent. (Submitted)