Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton emerged as the B.C. Liberal choice to succeed Bill Barisoff as the party’s Penticton riding candidate in the next provincial election.
It was a close race that began nearly two months ago, when Bill Barisoff announced that after 17 years as MLA, he had chosen not to run in the May 2013 provincial election. Four prominent community members — Ashton, Summerland Mayor Janice Perrino, Mark Ziebarth and Connie Denesiuk — chose to try for the position.
“The quality of the candidates in this race speaks to the party’s strength here in the Okanagan,” said Ashton. “I want to thank my competitors for a spirited and respectful campaign.”
That campaign came to a close on Oct. 20, as in turn, each of the candidates took to a podium at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre Saturday, each trying to convince an audience of B.C. Liberal party members that they were the best choice to succeed Barisoff, the Speaker of the House, as the party’s candidate in the next provincial election.
It took three counts of the preferential ballots after the polls closed at 3 p.m. for Ashton to accumulate the required 50 per cent plus one of the votes to claim the victory.
“We had 700 of our members voting,” said Randy Kowalchuk, chair of the local party organization. Each was able to mark down the candidates in order of preference, with the lowest finisher being eliminated after each count and the votes redistributed to the remaining candidates.
In his speech, Ashton highlighted his record of fiscal responsibility as mayor, citing the fact that he and council have managed to avoid tax increases over the last two budget years. It’s an attitude he hopes to bring with him to the provincial table.
“I’m going to work hard to help Premier Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberal team keep British Columbia’s economy on track,” said Ashton, who will be heading to Whistler next weekend to participate in the party’s 2012 Convention.
Ashton will maintain his position as mayor of Penticton for now, but will take a leave of absence in April, when the official campaign period begins for the May provincial election. During his campaign for the Liberal candidacy, Ashton said that should he win, he would personally underwrite the cost of a mayoral by-election, up to $35,000, in order to spare the city any costs from his leaving the post mid-term.