'The race is the thing' for Downes

NDP candidate garners 20.7 per cent of vote

Rick Downes concedes defeat at the Grizzly Grill last night.
Rick Downes concedes defeat at the Grizzly Grill last night.

Last night New Democrat candidate Rick Downes joined his supporters at the Grizzly Grill shortly before 10 p.m., talking to them and shaking hands briefly before addressing the crowd to concede his defeat.

Downes received 20.6 per cent of the vote, with 10,126 votes as of 2 a.m. today.

“This election has brought my politics full circle,” said Downes, who served as a city councillor for several years before running for mayor in Kingston’s municipal election last year. He lost a close race to incumbent Mayor Harvey Rosen.

“What a great privilege it has been for me to run for provincial parliament in Kingston and the Islands.”

The restaurant’s back room had been quiet as Downes and about 40 supporters gathered in front of two TVs broadcasting CBC’s election coverage.

With 20.9 per cent of the vote, the NDP received a larger proportion of the Kingston electorate’s support than ever before.

In 2003, Kingston and the Island’s NDP candidate Janet Collins won 11.5 per cent of the vote.

Downes thanked all his volunteers, his campaign manager and NDP leader Howard Hampton.

“We raised a lot of important issues over the course of the campaign,” he said.

Downes told the Journal he spent the day waving to the cars and knocking on doors until the polls closed at 9 p.m.

“We showed an incredible face, and did very strongly,” Downes said.

Downes said he was satisfied with his performance and the NDP’s overall performance in the province.

“We had a lot of fun, which is very important for politics.” Downes said winning Liberal candidate John Gerretsen deserved congratulations, and after speaking with partygoers, he headed to the Ambassador Hotel to offer his support.

“[Gerretsen is] a very formidable opponent, but that hasn’t stopped me from running,” Downes said. “There’s a strong Liberal tide in Ontario, as we’ve seen in this election.”

But Downes said winning wasn’t the most important thing.

“I’ve given [the candidates] a good race. … The race is the thing.” Downes said he’s not sure if he will return to politics.

“That’s always the question, isn’t it?” he said. “It’s a very important decision, regarding my family and my finances, as right now I’m on my unpaid leave.

“I won’t say yes or no.”

For now, Downes will return to his job as vice-principal at James R. Henderson Public School.

Chris Horkins, leader of Queen’s NDP, said despite the party’s loss, he thought the campaign went well.

“It’s obviously disappointing, but I think Rick had a great run,” he said.

“It showed that John Gerretsen isn’t as much of an infallible institution in this riding.”

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