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Christy Clark next premier of British Columbia

Christy Clark will be the next premier of British Columbia after BC Liberal members picked her as their new leader today.

"I want you to be my partners in change in Victoria," Clark said, addressing her first comments to British Columbians rather than party members.

"You can count on me to listen," she said. "You can count on me to engage and you can count on me to make decisions that include you."

It took three rounds to determine a winner, with Clark edging out Kevin Falcon. Under the weighted system, candidates needed at least 4,251 points to win.

Clark said job creation and fighting poverty would be the government's top priorities under her leadership.

She congratulated her opponents and recognized their strengths. "Our party is a coalition. It is a great coalition," she said. Later in her speech she recognized that the Liberal caucus with the exception of Harry Bloy supported other leadership candidates. Now is the time to join together and work for change, she said.

"We knew it was possible but it was going to be tough and we just didn't quite make it," said Falcon. "Of course you're going to be disappointed, but Christy ran a great campaign too, you have to recognize that."

"She'll be fine," said senior cabinet minister Rich Coleman. Coleman at one time considered running himself and later supported Falcon's bid. "The party's bigger than anyone . . . The party voted and we accept it. She'll do okay in the job."

Cabinet minister Pat Bell, also a Falcon supporter, said her energy will be welcome.

"I think she was the worst cabinet minister we had in 25 years," said NDP leadership candidate Adrian Dix. "It's not a good day for the province. None of these candidates represented anything in the way of change."

The NDP will be happy to run against her record, he said. On the key issues of health care, the economy and education, he said, "We'll beat her."

"I think it was a very close vote and I think it means the BC Liberals have some big problems," said Mike Farnworth, also running to lead the NDP. "This is a party that's clearly split between two people and she's goa a big challenge ahead of her."

After the first count, Clark was ahead with 3,209 votes. She was followed by Kevin Falcon with 2,411, George Abbott with 2,091 and Mike de Jong with 789.

Under the preferential voting system, de Jong's votes were dropped and his supporters' second choices distributed to the remaining candidates.

After the second count, Clark extended her lead to 3,575, ahead of Falcon at 2,564 and Abbott at 2,361.

The second preferences of Abbott's supporters, as well as the third choices of de Jong supporters, were distributed to Clark and Falcon.

In the third round Clark got 4,420 points to Falcon's 4,080.

The vote had 62.4 percent turnout of the party's 90,000 or so members.

Clark replaces Gordon Campbell, who on Nov. 3 announced his resignation. He led the party for 17 years and to three election victories.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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