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‘It was a very emotional night’: NDP candidate takes Boundary-Similkameen from Liberal reign

Click to play video 'Roly Russell on projected election victory in Boundary-Similkameen' Roly Russell on projected election victory in Boundary-Similkameen
The BC NDP's Roly Russell speaks to Global Okanagan's Shelby Thom about his projected victory in the riding of Boundary-Similkameen, traditionally a Liberal stronghold. – Oct 25, 2020

In a major upset for the BC Liberals, Roly Russell of the BC NDP is projected to win in the riding of Boundary-Similkameen.

This seat was vacant after two-term Liberal MLA Linda Larson announced her retirement earlier this year.

Oliver Coun. Petra Veintimilla hoped to succeed Larson, running under the BC Liberal banner, but Russell pulled ahead by approximately 1,700 votes on election night.

Read more: B.C. election 2020: NDP stops Liberals from sweeping Okanagan ridings

Russell has garnered 48 per cent of the vote (7,529), with Veintimilla in second at 36.8 per cent (5,773).

Mail-in and absentee ballots still need to be counted.

Click to play video 'Boundary-Similkameen 2020 race' Boundary-Similkameen 2020 race
Boundary-Similkameen 2020 race – Oct 19, 2020

“It was a very emotional night, and we don’t really know for sure what the outcome is going to be, but it is certainly looking promising,” Russell said.

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“It felt like a really big mystery in terms of how things were going to look, so we didn’t really know what to expect, and we knew that it might be a very close race.”

More: Full B.C. election coverage

Russell credited his campaign team and supporters for his unlikely victory. It is the only seat the BC NDP picked up outside of the Lower Mainland or Vancouver Island.

“Pretty happy to see the results after a lot of time on the road and a lot of time trying to get the message out about why we are here and what we stand for,” he said.

The B.C. Interior has traditionally been a stronghold for centre-right political parties for decades.

The BC Liberals managed to hold onto at least four seats in the Okanagan, despite the BC NDP securing a provincial majority.

Click to play video 'Boundary-Similkameen 2020 race: Roly Russell, BC NDP' Boundary-Similkameen 2020 race: Roly Russell, BC NDP
Boundary-Similkameen 2020 race: Roly Russell, BC NDP – Oct 19, 2020

Russell says he has a myriad of regional-specific issues he will take to Victoria on behalf of constituents in the rural riding, which stretches from Princeton to Osoyoos and Grand Forks.

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“Those issues around environmental stewardship and forest management, issues around health care, particularly what rural health care needs to look like, including mental health and addictions, and then small business and economic development,” he said.

Veintimilla did not return a request for comment on Sunday.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots were requested across B.C. this election. As mail-in ballots cannot be counted until after election night, these results are not final.