Even before Gwen O'Mahony and the NDP had officially won Thursday's provincial byelection in Chilliwack-Hope, the Conservatives were making excuses and the governing BC Liberals were handing out blame.
O'Mahony garnered 5,823 votes (41.55 per cent), with BC Liberal Laurie Throness coming in second with 4,501 votes (32.12 per cent), and BC Conservative John Martin finishing third with 3,548 votes (25.32 per cent). Libertarian Lewis Clarke Dahlby received 141 votes.
"I'm completely honoured to be voted in as the MLA for the people of this area," O'Mahony said at Bravo Restaurant Thursday after the victory. "I'll enjoy the evening and then I know I'll be hard at work Monday."
O'Mahony said the key to her success in the May 2013 general election will be, in part, the hiring of some key staff. She said she hopes to open constituency offices in Chilliwack and Hope.
Over at the Coast Hotel, the BC Liberals were licking their wounds and passing the blame to the Conservatives.
"This is an object lesson for the people of British Columbia and the people of Chilliwack that this is what happens when you split the coalition vote," Liberal candidate Laurie Throness said.
"[BC Conservative leader] John Cummins has enabled the NDP to win in this riding tonight," Chilliwack MLA John Les said. "Many, many people in British Columbia will not be satisfied tonight. If you are not a socialist, there is nothing to be satisfied with here tonight."
Despite some pundits calling for a victory for the upstart Conservatives in Chilliwack-Hope, the party finished third. But they still put a positive spin on the results. The Conservatives pointed out the Liberals received 4,457 fewer votes than in the 2009 byelection in Chilliwack-Hope, the NDP "only" gained 185 votes, and the Conservatives received 2,350 more votes.
"It's obvious from these results that the Liberals are a spent force in B.C. politics and the NDP are going nowhere," a press release said.
Leader John Cummins said his party was outspent the other two parties by about five to one.
For her part, O'Mahony credited hard work, which included the thousands of doors she knocked on in the riding during the campaign, as well as during her 2009 bid for provincial office and her run for the federal NDP in Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon in 2011.
When asked about the vote-splitting issue, O'Mahony was defiant and insisted she could win again in the general election.
"It sounds like somebody is telling me I can't do it again, eh?" O'Mahony said. "I've got a year to prove myself and show myself and I know that trust is something that is earned, it is not given away, and I'm pretty confident I'll be able to do that this upcoming year."
Campaign manager and former Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon MP Chuck Strahl introduced Throness to supporters Thursday at the Coast.
Throness thanked supporters, congratulated O'Mahony and applauded Martin for running.
"I was surprised by the result," Throness said. "I can only think the people of Chilliwack-Hope were sending some kind of a protest vote via John Martin and that's what happened."
In a concession speech at Conservative headquarters, Martin said O'Mahony would make a good MLA for the riding.
"Today the people of Chilliwack have spoken," he told supporters. "They've selected a great candidate. Gwen O'Mahony has impeccable character. She has worked so hard for so many years in this riding. She is full of enthusiasm, extremely passionate about the issues and I think she's going to make a great MLA."
He also called Throness "a great man."
Martin said the results showed that voters wanted change.
"It wasn't the type of change we were hoping for but we were correct. The people want change and they made a decision to go in that direction."
Political scientist Norman Ruff said the results show the NDP are the favourites for the May 2013 provincewide general election.
"That's what the polls have suggested," said Ruff. "There's nothing to contradict the message that the next election is the NDP's to lose."
CHILLIWACK-HOPE THEN AND NOW
April 19, 2012 byelection Votes %
Gwen O'Mahony (NDP) 5,823 41.55%
Laurie Throness (BC Liberal) 4,501 32.12%
John Martin (BC Conservative) 3,548 25.32%
Lewis Dahlby (Libertarian) 141 1%
Voter turnout 14,013 40.76%
May 12, 2009 general election
Barry Penner (BC Liberal) 8,958 53.28%
Gwen O'Mahony (NDP) 5,638 33.43%
Hans Mulder (BC Conservative) 1,198 7.1%
Guy Durnin (Green Party) 951 5.64%
Dorothy-Jean O'Donnell (People's Front) 93 0.55%
Voter turnout 16,960 51.85%