NDP stalwarts plug riding holes

When the election is called and your team is in limbo, there’s only one thing for a diehard to do. Run.

When the election is called and your team is in limbo, there’s only one thing for a diehard to do.

Run.

The October 10 election won’t be the first time that Lil Grubach-Hambrook has sought a seat with the Yukon New Democratic Party.

Ditto for Rachel Lewis.

Lewis and Grubach-Hambrook came to the rescue in the 11th hour on Monday by putting their names forward in two tough ridings where the NDP could not find candidates.

“I am surprised,” said Lewis, who lives in Marsh Lake but will represent the NDP in far-flung Watson Lake.

“I went down to work in the riding, to work with the team there on a candidate,” she said Tuesday.

“I’ve now become the candidate.

“I was asked to run and I’m feeling good about it.”

Lewis already tried to get in the game by seeking the NDP nomination in McIntyre-Takhini last month.

She lost to incumbent MLA John Edzerza, who cut his ties to the reigning Yukon Party in August to run for the NDP.

McIntyre-Takhini wasn’t Lewis’ first kick at the can, either.

She ran for election in Riverdale North in 2000 and in Southern Lakes in 2002. She lost both times.

A veteran foot soldier, when the NDP called she answered, looking for lucky number three in Dennis Fentie’s riding.

Couldn’t the NDP find anyone else in Watson Lake?

Somebody who actually lives there?

“There were a number of people, I think, who would have come forward, but personal circumstances prevented that,” said Lewis.

“I worked in Watson Lake for a number of years and I’m close to people in that community.

“That’s why I’m running.

“I am known in the riding. There are people there who will support me, and I feel strongly that there are issues in that community that I feel strongly about and I feel comfortable running there.

“I’m a serious candidate.”

Grubach-Hambrook lives in Copperbelt, but will represent the NDP in Kluane, where the local membership has been leaderless since incumbent MLA Gary McRobb left the NDP and joined the Liberals.

“Basically, there’s no one in the riding that had the time,” said Grubach-Hambrook, who lost in Copperbelt under the NDP banner in 2002.

“When you consider that, for six to eight years (Kluane) has been NDP territory … they never really needed to build more NDP leadership there.”

Grubach-Hambrook is also president of the NDP and the party’s election campaign manager — check that, “campaign chair” is her new official title.

She was recalled from the federal NDP convention in Quebec to take the reins of the Yukon campaign.

How is she supposed to co-ordinate the local NDP’s election campaign while running her own in Kluane?

All it takes is hard work, said Grubach-Hambrook.

“I have the time, the energy, a supportive husband, no kids and no pets,” she said with a laugh.

“You can be anywhere. (Kluane) is an hour and a half away, it’s not far.

“You’ve got wireless internet and cellphones.

“There’s a 45-minute range where you can’t reach anyone on the highway between Haines Junction and here.

“But it’s all doable.”

Nobody in the NDP organization ordered either candidate to run, said Grubach-Hambrook.

“They didn’t put us in there, we were asked to run. There’s a big difference.

“We haven’t been parachuted in. I could have easily said no.

“But for lack of an NDP candidate coming out in those areas, there are people who are disenfranchised if they don’t have a vote.

“There are many NDP voters in Kluane. I don’t know how many in Watson Lake.”

Kluane will be a litmus test for the NDP.

No one knows how many of the 442 votes McRobb won in 2002 — 65 per cent — were going to the NDP, rather than the candidate.

“No one is quite aware of what that split is yet, and we’ll know in this election,” said Grubach-Hambrook.

“To find that out, you need a really credible candidate.

“Gary is not somebody to trifle with. He is going to be a formidable opponent, just like Dennis is for Rachel.

“And we know that. But if you’re going to fight someone you better have some really strong candidates to fight them with.

“We’re a power team.”

But if Lewis and Grubach-Hambrook had not agreed to run in Watson Lake and Kluane…

“Then there would be no candidate,” said Grubach-Hambrook.

Fentie and McRobb were both elected in 1996 under the NDP banner, and have held their seats, if not their parties, ever since.

Calling Elvis

Elvis Presley doesn’t want to be a Liberal anymore.

Instead, the entertainer and former Liberal leadership hopeful is running as an independent candidate for Pelly-Nisutlin.

“If I run as an independent then I have more political freedom, and I can bring up anything in the legislature that I feel is good for Yukoners,” Presley said from his Ross River home Tuesday.

His split from the Liberals was amicable, he said.

“I don’t have anything against anybody. I’m a leader, I don’t want to be a follower of somebody.”

Ross River suffers from an 87 per cent unemployment rate and prices of goods are four times higher than elsewhere in the Yukon, he said.

“I’ll be asking the government to raise social assistance payments for people in ridings like here.”

Presley is one of four independent candidates officially on the ballot after Monday’s candidacy deadline.

Dale Worsfold will run in Watson Lake against Fentie, Lewis and Liberal candidate Rick Harder.

Former Dawson City mayor Glen Everitt, who ran for the Liberals in 2002, is seeking an independent seat in the Klondike.

And Fred Hutter, a blogger and pollster, will challenge McRobb in Kluane.

“All three parties — the NDP, the Liberals and the Yukon Party — are going to be neck-and-neck on election day,” said Presley.

“I think the independents are going to be a balance of power.

“They’re going to be heard and heard good, and if the other parties want to implement any legislation they’re going to have to deal with the independent people.

“We’re all going to have to work together, which is a really good thing.”