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Oppal calls victory with razor-thin finish

LADNER -- Attorney-general Wally Oppal claimed victory over Independent challenger Vicki Huntington in Delta South, despite a two vote lead and certain recount.

“I’m almost speechless, I don’t know what to say,” Huntington said as results were announced. “The numbers aren’t confirmed, it could be anyone’s guess who wins.”

The nail-biting finish was easily the tightest in the province, reflecting the divisions of a riding unsure how to channel its anger against a series of unpopular projects imposed by the provincial government.

Huntington received only two less votes than the BC Liberals Oppal, while the New Democratic Party’s Dileep Athaide trailed third by almost 7000 ballots, according to preliminary results.

Early in the evening, Oppal came off calm and confident as he chatted with reporters at the highway-hugging Delta Town and Country Inn.

“I have nothing to be nervous about,” he said.

But the attorney-general admitted local rage caused by projects such as the high voltage power lines and controversial Deltaport Container expansion was formidable.

“There’s no question that there is some anger against the government,” Oppal said.

Huntington shook hands and fielded questions at the Sundance Inn, a slightly less upscale motel located where Ladner’s suburbs start yielding to farmland.

“The race is just what we thought it was going to be,” Huntington said, taking out a small handkerchief to wipe sweat from her brow. “It’s very close.”

This is Huntington’s second run for the legislature as an Independent. In 2005, the five-term Delta councillor lost to BC Liberals candidate Val Roddick by less than 1100 votes.

During the evening, dozens of supporters crowded around a projector screen, anxious to watch the results of every poll. Cheers erupted when Huntington squeaked ahead, boos when Oppal nabbed the lead.

“Holy Jesus!” shouted one supporter as the independent inched within 10 votes of the attorney-general. “It’s like a drag race,” chimed another.

On CBC, Oppal’s campaign manager Mike McPhie said the attorney-general was feeling “anxious” as he watched the results in a hotel room away from reporters.

Shortly after midnight, Elections BC gave Oppal a mere 15 vote lead while officials waited for advance polling results to come in. As supporters milled restlessly, Rick Stanley told The Tyee he’s happy with a BC Liberals majority, even though he voted for Huntington.

“Vicki will speak for us,” he said.

No matter what the result of the recount, Huntington is already a winner, he added.

“Gordon Campbell had to bring a heavyweight into Delta South,” Stanley said. “He knew Huntington would put up a tough fight.”

Geoff Dembicki reports for The Tyee.

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