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Lekstrom wins big in Peace River South

DAWSON CREEK – In the end, the biggest question surrounding Blair Lekstrom’s election night results in Peace River South was not whether he would win, but by how big a margin.

Lekstrom turned in one of the most one-sided victories in the province, taking 63 per cent of the popular vote in the riding. With 4,514 of the 7,138 votes cast, he beat his closest rival, NDP candidate Pat Shaw, by more than 2,500 votes. Shaw received 27 per cent of the popular vote.

However, the mandate may be less conclusive than that result would indicate, as preliminary results from the riding’s 63 voting stations also show just 42 per cent of eligible voters turned out to the polls.

“It paid off?” asked a smiling Paul Gevatkoff, Lekstrom’s campaign manager, when Lekstrom entered election headquarters at the Best Western Inn to loud applause shortly after 9 p.m.

“You’re damn right it did,” replied a jubilant Lekstrom, whose grassroots support as a former mayor and lifelong Dawson Creek resident is augmented by his popularity among players in the gas industry that drives the Peace region's economy.

Green Party candidate Grant Fraser finished with 479 votes, good for 6.7 per cent of the popular vote, while independent candidate Donna Young received 209 votes.

Lekstrom improved on his 2005 election results, when his 5,810 votes received was good for nearly 58 per cent of the popular vote. Shaw was also the runner-up in that race, finishing with 3,296 votes for almost 33 per cent of the popular vote.

Wearing a well-worn Boston Bruins sweatshirt that became his choice attire late in the campaign, Lekstrom thanked his family and supporters, and attributed his victory to running an honest and optimistic campaign.

“I think what this shows is if you stick to the truth and you stick to the facts, and you tell the people what you’re about and not what the other people aren’t about, it will prove to be the best way to run a campaign,” he said.

Lekstrom appeared to receive broad support across the South Peace, including communities affected by the October 2008 pipeline bombings and the subsequent intensive RCMP investigation. Only the roughly 100 voters in Moberly Lake gave more votes to the NDP than to Lekstrom.

With 60 of 63 voting places reporting, results indicate the referendum on the BC-STV voting system was soundly rejected in the South Peace, with 758 voters indicating they prefer the first-past-the-post system to the 393 who supported BC-STV.

Greg Amos reports for The Dawson Creek Daily News.

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