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Ethel by a hair

Wins by only 52 votes over her closest challenger

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (June 30/04) - Hopes of winning a fifth term in Ottawa waivered most of the night, but in the end, Liberal Ethel Blondin-Andrew was able to snatch victory just as the jaws of defeat appeared to be closing in on her.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Ethel Blondin-Andrew is all smiles after winning an unprecedented fifth term in the House of Commons, Monday night. - Mike W. Bryant/NNSL photo

Winning by only 52 votes over her closest challenger, Dennis Bevington of the NDP, the Western Arctic incumbent was losing for most of the night. Now she has been assured her place in history as the only MP from the NWT to win five straight terms.

It wasn't until the combined poll results from Rae-Edzo came in Monday night that the tide turned for Blondin-Andrew.

A whoop of joy rose from her supporters gathered at campaign headquarters in Yellowknife after it was announced that the Dogrib community had put Blondin-Andrew on top with 414 votes in her favour.

Earlier returns were not nearly as promising. Bevington won Fort Smith and 26 out of 29 polls in Yellowknife, while taking a near even split with voters in Inuvik and Hay River.

Blondin-Andrew said she figured every vote would count this time around after claiming four relatively easy victories since her first win in 1988.

"I've been blessed with really good strong, numbers but that's not the real world," said Blondin-Andrew after it appeared she was about to win again.

"I've had some pretty contentious issues. I've had same-sex, marijuana, gun control for the third time.

She said issues weren't the only difficulties she faced, though she wouldn't elaborate, saying only that she had some "setbacks in the last couple of days that didn't help much."

Blondin-Andrew walked into a far nastier campaign than on previous outings, although the four candidates stayed largely civil towards each other. She endured an irate father's rights activist attempting to pelt her with baggies filled with flour and chalk at a candidates' forum in Yellowknife last week.

Several of her campaign signs were vandalized, including one on election day that tried to portray her as the devil.

Regardless, she said her campaign team and numerous community contacts were determined to get her re-elected, and worked over-time to do so.

"Just ordinary citizens," said Blondin-Andrew.

"That's what a party is supposed to be all about. Every community, we had a contact."

With her party now in minority government territory, another election could come at any time.

"It says that Yellowknife people are not happy with me and I've got to find out why," said Blondin-Andrew.

One supporter present, Lydia Bardak, doubted Blondin-Andrew's showing had much to do with her level of popularity at home.

"I think we're seeing a lot of dissatisfaction with the Liberal party generally on some of things that happened in the past," said Bardak.

"I don't think this is really a comment on Ethel's performance."