Saskatchewan Party members couldn’t stop going up to Larry Doke to give him a congratulatory handshake following his victory in the nomination race in Cut Knife-Turtleford Friday night.
Doke was declared the nominee for the Saskatchewan Party in the constituency for the next provincial election after the conclusion of vote counting in Maidstone that evening.
He will be seeking to keep the seat in Sask. Party hands after the retirement of two-term incumbent Michael Chisholm. So far, the NDP has nominated Bernadette Gopher as their candidate. The Liberals and the Green Party are also pledging to have candidates running.
Now his nomination is in place, Doke’s campaign has begun for the 2011 election.
“It starts tomorrow,” Doke said following his victory speech, pledging to get his campaign team together.
Doke defeated two other contenders, Jacquie Code and Ethan Walker, for the party’s nomination in an unusual format where voting took place in two separate meetings on two nights. The first nomination meeting was held in Mervin Wednesday night. The votes cast at that meeting were brought to Maidstone to be counted along with the rest of the votes Friday.
The party estimated over 600 members took part in the process over the two nights. The high turnout came in spite of heavy fog around Maidstone Friday night.
The nomination was hardly a cakewalk for Doke, who has been actively campaigning for the past six months.
“We worked very hard, we sold a pile of memberships. Not only that, we got a lot of people out,” said Doke, who stressed how important it was not only to sell memberships, but to actually get people out to vote.
Doke acknowledged winning a nomination race is often harder than the general election that follows, because of the membership selling that has to be done.
During their candidate speeches, Code presented an elaborate multimedia video presentation, while Walker relied on several family members in attendance who were there to support him in his bid.
Doke was able to count on many supporters who wore bright green Larry Doke t-shirts inside the Legion Hall in Maidstone Friday. Doke’s campaign had also placed about 40 signs throughout the riding in support of his bid.
He also enjoyed strong support from his home base in the Meota and Metinota area, including an endorsement from Metinota mayor Glenn Wouters. Doke currently sits as a member of the Metinota council.
During his candidate speech prior to voting Friday, Doke talked about his 30 years of business and community experience and 14 years of municipal government experience, including stints on the North Battleford and the Metinota councils, as setting him apart as the right candidate for the position.
Doke said he talked to “reeves, councillors, administrators” about what needed to be done and noted “roads are a huge issue,” along with infrastructure issues. He also pledged to work on issues such as crime, health care and education. He praised Sask. Party accomplishments in reducing the debt, reducing taxes and attracting more workers to Saskatchewan.
Doke also pledged to be a strong voice as MLA and to carry the torch for business, “whether small or large.” Doke promised to maintain a constituency office in Maidstone as well as a second office near his home in Meota.
Now that the nomination campaign is over Doke feels the party has momentum going into the next election.
“I feel great, I’m glad it’s over. It was a hard-fought battle and hats off to the other candidates,” said Doke,.
Tribute was also paid to outgoing MLA Michael Chisholm, who now enters his final year in the legislature before the next election. Lloydminster MLA Tim McMillan paid tribute to Chisholm’s service in the legislature during a speech before the ballot results were announced, citing his calming influence in caucus and his work on initiatives such as Saskatchewan’s involvement in the Pacific Northwest Economic Region.
“I’m into the final chapter of this portion of my life,” said Chisholm to the Regional Optimist, now back at work with the opening of the legislature’s fall sitting.
Chisholm said he has worked with Doke before on many worthwhile projects in the area.
“His work ethic is what impresses me,” Chisholm said.
The MLA believes the newly-nominated candidate is in a good position to keep the seat in Saskatchewan Party hands.
“I think we’re a very solid constituency here, both in the margin in which we won last time, in the neighbourhood of 2,000 votes. Financially, we’re in good shape here, so I think things bode well for Larry,” Chisholm said.