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

The projected winners of the 7 ridings in the Okanagan, although Eric Foster's lead in Vernon-Monashee (bottom right) is too close to call. Submitted

The orange wave that swept across B.C. on election night spread to the riding of Boundary-Similkameen, preventing the BC Liberals from sweeping the Okanagan.

The NDP hasn’t held the seat since the early 1990s. The B.C. Interior has a long history of voting for centre-right political parties.

Roly Russell, a two-term member of the Regional District of Kootenay-Boundary, representing rural Grand Forks, defeated his Liberal challenger by 1,756 votes, according to preliminary results.

“I think a fantastic team made the difference, we had a really stellar group of people that came out of the woodwork,” Russell said.

The win is notable as the only pickup the party made outside of the Lower Mainland or Vancouver Island.

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

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It is a major upset for the BC Liberals as Oliver town councillor Petra Veintimilla hoped to succeed two-term Liberal MLA Linda Larson, who announced her retirement earlier this year.

Click to play video: 'Penticton voters react to pandemic B.C. election' Penticton voters react to pandemic B.C. election
Penticton voters react to pandemic B.C. election – Oct 24, 2020

In Penticton, Liberal incumbent Dan Ashton scored a political hat trick, projected to secure his third term in office, winning by more than 2,600 votes over NDP challenger Toni Boot in preliminary polling numbers.

Read more: B.C. election 2020: Dan Ashton scores political hat trick in Penticton

“I was happy to see the numbers climbing up,” Ashton said. “I was saddened to see the losses that were taking place in the Lower Mainland.”

Approximately 10,000 mail-in and absentee ballots still need to be counted in Penticton, electoral district officials said.

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“While I am disappointed in this loss, I know that a far greater victory has been achieved in our province for progressive politics and that is something worth celebrating,” Boot said, after failing to unseat Ashton.

Click to play video: 'B.C. election 2020: Liberal incumbent Dan Ashton speaks on securing a third term in Penticton' B.C. election 2020: Liberal incumbent Dan Ashton speaks on securing a third term in Penticton
B.C. election 2020: Liberal incumbent Dan Ashton speaks on securing a third term in Penticton – Oct 25, 2020

In the Central Okanagan, Liberal incumbents Norm Letnick (Kelowna-Lake Country) and Ben Stewart (Kelowna-West) were re-elected in their respective ridings.

Read more: B.C. election 2020: Norm Letnick projected to win again in Kelowna-Lake Country

Letnick won by a landslide, with a margin of victory of 5,100 votes over NDP challenger Justin Kulik, earning more than double the votes of his nearest opponent.

“I know it’s a privilege to serve, and I’m just honoured that the people of Kelowna-Lake Country have picked me again to be their voice in Victoria,” Letnick said.

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Click to play video: 'B.C. election 2020: Extended interview with Kelowna-Lake Country projected winner Norm Letnick' B.C. election 2020: Extended interview with Kelowna-Lake Country projected winner Norm Letnick
B.C. election 2020: Extended interview with Kelowna-Lake Country projected winner Norm Letnick – Oct 25, 2020

Early results show Stewart won by more than 3,300 votes over NDP challenger Spring Hawes.

Read more: B.C. election 2020: Ben Stewart projected to win in Kelowna West

Renee Merrifield successfully succeeded outgoing Liberal MLA Steve Thomson in Kelowna-Mission, earning 3,800 more votes than NDP challenger Krystal Smith.

“I’m feeling overwhelmed and humbled,” Merrifield said.

Click to play video: 'B.C. election 2020: Extended interview with Renee Merrifield' B.C. election 2020: Extended interview with Renee Merrifield
B.C. election 2020: Extended interview with Renee Merrifield – Oct 25, 2020

“Honestly, when the numbers started rolling in, I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe that we had done that well,” she added.

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Read more: B.C. election 2020: Renee Merrifield projected to win Kelowna-Mission

In the Shuswap, Liberal incumbent Greg Kyllo secured a third consecutive term, easily beating NDP candidate Sylvia Lindgren by more than 4,200 votes.

The Okanagan wildcard is in Vernon-Monashee, where three-time Liberal incumbent Eric Foster is in a tight race with NDP opponent Harwinder Sandhu.

Read more: B.C. election 2020: Greg Kyllo projected to win in Shuswap

Foster is ahead by a mere 180 votes, making the riding too close to call until all mail-in and absentee ballots are counted.

Click to play video: 'B.C. election 2020: Incumbent Liberal candidate Eric Foster reacts to tight race in Vernon Monashee' B.C. election 2020: Incumbent Liberal candidate Eric Foster reacts to tight race in Vernon Monashee
B.C. election 2020: Incumbent Liberal candidate Eric Foster reacts to tight race in Vernon Monashee – Oct 25, 2020

Due to the pandemic, more than 8,700 voters in the Vernon-Monashee riding requested vote-by-mail packages.

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On election night, Foster said he wasn’t surprised by the tight race because a Conservative candidate was running and likely split the vote on the right of the political spectrum.

Read more: B.C. election 2020: Foster ahead in Vernon-Monashee, but race too close to call

“[You’ll] always be disappointed if you don’t win, but it’s not up to me…Our team did everything they could do and if the voters of Vernon-Monashee decide they want to go in a different direction that’s what will happen,” Foster said.

Elections BC has the next two weeks to count and verify an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots, which could change the results of close races.

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.

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