‘There wasn’t anything we could have done differently’

Yukon Party candidate Mike Nixon campaigned for 13 hours during the final day of the byelection for Whitehorse Centre. “It’s a lucky number,” he said with a chuckle, as he waited for the results on Tuesday evening.

Yukon Party candidate Mike Nixon campaigned for 13 hours during the final day of the byelection for Whitehorse Centre.

“It’s a lucky number,” he said with a chuckle, as he waited for the results on Tuesday evening.

Evidently not.

Nixon finished last in the three-way race. According to unofficial results, he received 150 votes, Liberal candidate Kirk Cameron received 181 votes and the NDP’s Liz Hanson won by a large margin, with 356 votes.

Nixon and about 50 supporters put on brave faces as the results were announced to their gathering at the Goldrush Inn. Nixon took to the podium and offered a few words of thanks.

Premier Dennis Fentie sidled up and put an arm around him. “Good college try, my man,” he said. Members of cabinet, the party executive, relatives and friends all offered support.

Unlike Liberals down the street, those at the Yukon Party base likely harboured few illusions that they would win this race.

Nixon didn’t concede defeat early, but there was a hint of resignation when he said, “There wasn’t anything we could have done differently.”

And, as he would later tell reporters, “It was an uphill battle all the way.”

The riding was generally understood to be an NDP stronghold, having been held by Todd Hardy until he succumbed to cancer this summer.

And both the Liberals and NDP had their candidates in place two months earlier than the Yukon Party, which nominated Nixon on November 10.

The amiable 41-year-old is also new to politics. He had a lot to learn.

He had to defend the government’s track record on homelessness, an issue that came to dominate the election debates. Where the Liberals and NDP zigged, he zagged, complaining that the opposition were making the downtown out to be like a slum.

Cabinet ministers tagged along with Nixon as he banged on doors. Justice Minister Marian Horne watched as Nixon grew more confident.

“He’s a down-to-earth person,” she said. “He’s caring: that’s what we need more of. He’s very open and honest.”

Talking to strangers all day can be exhausting, especially when you’re encroaching in their homes in the early evening, when most people are preparing dinner or watching television.

“Not every door is friendly,” said Health Minister Glenn Hart, who also stumped with Nixon.

The downtown’s demographics are changing, noted Hart. Old homes are being renovated. Young families, fed up with commuting from the suburbs, are moving within walking distance to work.

But it hasn’t changed enough for the NDP to lose its sway in the riding for now.

Nixon aimed to knock on every door in the riding twice. Some units he visited four times.

But the downtown is riddled with illegal suites with difficult-to-find entrances, some of which he never managed to hit.

Nixon’s campaign was managed by Dan Macdonald, 30, who took a four-week vacation from his day job as Environment Minister Elaine Taylor’s executive assistant.

He’s been active with the party since he was 19. He’s served as party president and secretary, and he helped stump for the 2006 general election, but this was the first campaign he ran.

Macdonald’s job was to co-ordinate about 30 to 40 volunteers. “You catch up with hard work,” he said.

There will be more hard work soon enough. A general election will be triggered in the next 10 months.

“That’s the true and most important test,” said Fentie.

Nixon said he’s willing to run again. Now that downtown residents know him, “I think they’ll give me a shot,” he said.

Contact John Thompson at johnt@yukon-news.com.

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