Manitoba Liberal leadership race down by one after Judy Klassen bows out

Judy Klassen bows out of the Manitoba Liberal leadership run and backs Cindy Lamoureux. Global News

One of four people running for the leadership of the Manitoba Liberal Party dropped out of the race Tuesday while signs of acrimony in the Liberal caucus emerged.

Judy Klassen, one of the party’s three legislature members, said she was bowing out of the contest and backing Cindy Lamoureux. Both were elected for the first time last year.

READ MORE: Cindy Lamoureux announces her run for Manitoba Liberal leadership

Klassen said she needs to focus on troubles in her northern constituency of Kewatinook.

“I’ve had a suicide, there’s been a murder and there’s been a rollover accident,” Klassen said. “That’s where I need to be at this time.”

Klassen said she is throwing her support behind Lamoureux because the 25-year-old represents a fresh face for the party.

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Their fellow caucus member, Jon Gerrard, 69, is also running for the leadership. Lamoureux hinted Gerrard’s bid goes against a discussion she, Klassen and Gerrard had months ago — before any of them launched their leadership bids — about uniting.

READ MORE: Former Manitoba Liberal leader, Jon Gerrard, runs for top job again

“The three of us had a discussion about one of us making the decision (to run), and that had been me. And we were going to all get onboard,” said Lamoureux, who was the first leadership candidate.

“In politics, we have a rule of thumb — nothing is ever official until it’s made official … It was a conversation that Jon, Judy and I had had, and things change sometimes.”

Gerrard said there was never any firm agreement with his caucus colleagues.

“There was talk of a variety of options,” he said.

“I wish Judy and Cindy well. We’re all part of one caucus and we will come out of this working well together.”

The Liberals are to elect a new leader Oct. 21 to replace Rana Bokhari, who resigned last year. The only other candidate so far, aside from Lamoureux and Gerrard, is Dougald Lamont, a small-business owner who finished second to Bokhari in 2013.

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READ MORE: Search is on for new Manitoba Liberal leader after Bokhari steps down

Royce Koop, who teaches political studies at the University of Manitoba, said Lamoureux appears to be the front-runner in the race, having taken a legislature seat from the NDP last year and sold hundreds of memberships in advance of the leadership convention.

“She’s demonstrated that she can actually … do the things you need to do to win this kind of race,” Koop said.

Gerrard, who led the party between 1998 and 2011, has a built-in base which will make him competitive, Koop added, while Lamont has become a known entity in Liberal circles since running in 2013.

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