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Dhaliwal's profile paints Newton-North Delta red

Liberal incumbent Sukh Dhaliwal edged out his Conservative Party rival for a big win in the hotly contested riding of Newton-North Delta. Observers speculated the high profile Grit benefitted from the Tory candidate's newcomer status.

Dhaliwal took 36.4 per cent of the popular vote, almost 2,500 ballots ahead of the Conservative party's Sandeep Pandher, according to preliminary results from Elections Canada. New Democratic Party candidate Teresa Townsley finished third with 26.1 per cent.

Encircled by dozens of cheering supporters at the Grand Taj Banquet Hall, Dhaliwal sounded hoarse and passionate as he addressed reporters.

"I've always put my constituents of Newton-North Delta first before my party and my personal beliefs, and certainly they have spoken," he said.

Newton-North Delta was predicted by many observers to be an extremely tight race. In the 2006 election, less than 2,000 votes separated Dhaliwal from his third place Conservative rival.

This time around, the Liberal candidate gained ground from his close connection to the community and incumbent status, said Indo-Canadian Voice editor Rattan Mall.

"He has really good recognition in the community," Mall said. "Indo-Canadians see him as a strong voice for their interests."

As The Tyee reported last month, South Asian voters wield a significant influence in the largely multicultural riding.

This is the first time Pandher has sought election in Newton-North Delta.

Mall said Pandher should have made greater strides to connect to voters given his newcomer status. But instead, the Tory candidate kept a profile "lower than the belly of a snake," Mall said.

Dhaliwal's campaign manager Al Payne said his candidate has been heavily involved in the riding for over a decade.

"[Pandher] is a latecomer to this riding," Payne said.

The Tory candidate's campaign manager Jerra Byrne said the Conservative team should have tried to get more voters out to the ballots, given Dhaliwal's high profile.

"Being an incumbent MP you have that advantage," she said. "I don't think it was any particular issue that won this -- just his popularity."

Geoff Dembicki is a staff reporter for The Hook.

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