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Candidate 'who wasn’t supposed to win' in 2015 takes Sackville-Preston-Chezzetcook again

Darrell Samson, campaigned in the Apartment 3 Express Bar in Lower Sackville Monday trying to hold onto the Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook seat that he won for the first time in 2015.
Liberal Darrell Samson held onto the riding of Sackville-Preston-Chezzetcook that he won for the first time in 2015. - JOHN DEMONT

Darrell Samson is a man of habit and routine, someone, by his own admission, whose adherence to ritual can sometimes border on the superstitious. 

So, as was the case four years ago, at high noon on this Election Day 2019, he and his wife went to a polling station in his home riding of Sackville-Preston-Chezzetcook to mark their ballots. 

Then, just like in 2015, Samson got into a car driven by his son-in-law Matt Haley and resumed his visits to his five different election headquarters sprinkled throughout the riding to thank volunteers and supporters. 

When all of the thank-yous were said, and the hugs and backslapping done, Samson headed home to be with his large extended family to watch the results on television. 

It was pleasant viewing.

"We worked hard. Our people worked hard. It is so nice to see this sign of appreciation by the people," said Samson, who at press time on Monday night, was cruising to victory with 185 of 196 polls counted. 

Last time out, Samson could feel something was up as he sat watching seat after seat turn Liberal Red in Newfoundland and Labrador, and then on the Nova Scotia mainland.

“I was probably the one Liberal in Atlantic Canada who wasn’t supposed to win,” said Samson, who was running against the immensely popular NDPer Peter Stoffer.

But Samson had personally knocked on 24,000 doors during the campaign. The Liberals, he said, had a standout platform. 

There was also the small matter of the Justin Trudeau wave that just kept rolling, enabling the 56-year-old Samson, who had never run in an election before, to take the seat Stoffer had held for the past 18 years.

This time, Samson changed the narrative. After two consecutive wins, it's no longer Stoffer’s riding. During a campaign in which the leader’s personal popularity slumped, Samson can’t be accused of riding Trudeau’s coattails either.

Which is something for a man who has been enthralled by the Trudeau name ever since he was a nine-year-old, back in Petit-de-Grat observing his father’s wonderment while he listened to Pierre Elliott Trudeau speak on television at the federal Liberal leadership contest in 1968.

Samson had spent 30 years in education when Justin Trudeau became leader of the federal party in 2013.

“For me that was like a dream coming true,” says Samson, who won the Liberal nomination against three opponents, and then took 48 per cent of the vote to beat Stoffer.

He took nothing for granted this time around, Samson told me as we chatted before the polls closed Monday inside the Apartment 3 Espresso Bar, not far from his campaign headquarters in Lower Sackville. 

Since the conventional political wisdom is that winning the first election is hard, but the next one even worse, Samson was even busier that the last time, personally talking to 30,000 voters on the doorstep, street or the telephone.

He said he was happy to run on what he had accomplished in Ottawa, by which the Liberal backbencher meant the “hundreds of times” he met with cabinet ministers on issues of concern to his constituents.

Even so, you could sense the uncertainty in the air inside Apartment 3 where he was doing a little last-minute mainstreeting six hours before the polls closed.

One person he introduced himself to -- Emma Quigley, a university student, who had just lived in the riding for a couple of months — told me that she had already voted, for the first time ever, for NDP candidate Matt Strickland because she felt the country “needed some kind of change.”

Another person he approached, a retired man whom we will call Jim since that is not his name, voted for Samson the last time around, mostly because he liked the party leader. 

But Trudeau, Jim says, has made some mistakes. Consequently, he would likely make his mind up in the polling booth this time around he told me. 

“I definitely am not voting Conservative,” he said.  But the idea of a Liberal-NDP coalition had a nice ring to it, since it “forced them to work through things together.”

A few hours before the polls closed the tea leaves were also hard to read in the parking lot at the popular Vegetarian Country Farm Market in Waverley. 

Monday -- with pumpkins and hay bales decorating the market, the surrounding forest a carpet of red and orange, and the autumn sunlight glinting off of Thomas Lake — that place looked like of ad for the fall tourism trade. 

There I talked to an older couple from the Moncton area, who planned on voting Conservative back in their New Brunswick riding, along with a young woman from Windsor Junction, who had voted for Samson’s Conservative opponent in 2015, and did so again this year because of what she viewed as the party’s measured approach on the immigration issue.

But inside the parking lot I talked to a woman named Katie Conklin, there with her baby daughter in a car seat. She felt that her life had improved under Justin Trudeau and, therefore, had given Samson another chance.

It was an appropriate place for such a sentiment. Stoffer’s constituency office had been upstairs over the farmer’s market. 

When Samson, the creature of habit, took the seat he left the office of the riding’s MP right there, so that people would know where to find him, which they will continue to do for at least four more years. 

VIEW OUR LIVE ELECTION RESULTS HERE

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