Newly elected MLAs John Martin

Tops Stories of 2013: Local Liberals share provincial win

Chilliwack’s brief flirtation with an NDP representative in the legislature ended in dramatic fashion in May.

Chilliwack’s brief flirtation with an NDP representative in the legislature ended in dramatic fashion in May.

Just a year after Gwen O’Mahony won a byelection in the riding of Chilliwack Hope, she lost the seat in a general election that surprised pollsters and pundits across the province.

Liberal wins, both here and elsewhere in B.C., were part of a stunning turnaround that returned Premier Christy Clark to Victoria with a healthy majority government.

But that wasn’t the only surprise.

The announced retirement of longtime MLA John Les had earlier sparked a search by local Liberals for another candidate to run in the Chilliwack riding. They found John Martin – the BC Conservative and touted star candidate who ran against the Liberals in the Chilliwack Hope riding a year earlier. With widespread disaffection in the BC Conservative camp, Martin announced his decision in September of 2012 to join a party he had bitterly campaigned against. “Simply put, I believe there is more that unites us than divides us,” he said at the time.

His NDP opponent, meanwhile, was also not without controversy. Patti MacAhonic sought a temporary leave from her position as executive director of the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce as she attempted to secure the party’s nomination. When that was refused, she was forced to resign in January.

Laurie Throness, the BC Liberal candidate who lost to O’Mahony in 2012, returned to face her again in 2013. But this time, he’d find more success.

Despite a confident NDP campaign, bolstered by pre-election polling numbers that pointed to a crushing Liberal defeat, Clark and her party romped to a 50-seat majority victory.

That success including Chilliwak-Hope, where Throness captured 9,533 votes, compared with O’Mahony’s 6,884. BC Conservative candidate Michael Henshall was a distant third at 2,093.

In the riding of Chilliwack, Martin cruised to an easy win. Martin garnered 48 per cent of the vote, easily outdistancing by 20 per cent Patti MacAhonic of the NDP.

Said Martin, reflecting his elation election night: “Did we kick some left-wing socialist butt tonight or what?”

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