Again, he is the candidate.
Former mayor Sam Sullivan is back in the political spotlight after winning the B.C. Liberals’ nomination race in the riding of Vancouver-False Creek.
Sullivan beat out former Vancouver-Burrard Liberal MLA Lorne Mayencourt by 71 votes Wednesday night in arguably the party’s hottest contest in the province.
“I am so deeply moved by the support I had from so many wonderful volunteers,” Sullivan told a crush of reporters seconds after a huge roar went up from the crowd when the result was announced at the Century Plaza Hotel on Burrard Street.
Sullivan received 273 votes to Mayencourt’s 202 while rookie candidate Brian Fixter, a 31-year-old lawyer who urged members in his speech to distance themselves from “the fraying strands of the past,” finished with 40.
Sullivan, in his early 50s, credited his campaign team for reaching out to younger voters and mobilizing a group otherwise uninterested in politics.
“It was a little bit of a risky strategy because they say young people aren’t engaged and they don’t vote in as high of numbers,” he said. “I loved introducing young people to the processes of our government.”
Mayencourt, who resigned in 2008 as the MLA for Vancouver-Burrard to make an unsuccessful run at federal politics, appeared shocked by the result. He only took a few questions from reporters before leaving the hotel to meet with volunteers.
“He got more votes — that’s what it comes down to,” he said of Sullivan’s victory.
In a riding in which Liberal party organizers claimed to have 1,800 members, the voter turnout was surprisingly low considering the profile of Sullivan and Mayencourt.
The interest level was in marked contrast to the Liberals’ nomination race Sunday in Vancouver-Quilchena between former NPA city councillor Suzanne Anton and former provincial deputy minister Andrew Wilkinson.
More than 1,400 members cast ballots in a battle that saw Wilkinson secure the nomination and effectively scuttle Anton’s political ambitions.
Anton, the NPA’s mayoral candidate in 2011, served on council during Sullivan’s administration at city hall between 2005 and 2008. Had Anton won her race, her return to politics would have made for an interesting narrative now that her old boss is again on the campaign trail.
Sullivan was forced out of politics when he lost the NPA’s mayoral nomination race to Peter Ladner in 2008; the vote margin was 80 votes, almost the same number that secured Sullivan the victory Wednesday night. Ladner subsequently lost the 2008 election to Vision Vancouver’s Gregor Robertson.
Sullivan has battled tough opponents over the years — the late Jim Green, for one — and shocked many political watchers in 2005 when he became the NPA’s mayoral candidate after beating challenger Christy Clark, who is now the premier of the province.
“Politics is interesting, you know,” he said in recalling his tilt with Clark. “One day you’re enemies and the next day you’re friends.”
Since leaving politics, Sullivan has taught a course on sustainable cities to graduate students at the University of B.C. He also founded the Global Civic Policy Society, which was created for “research and reflection on civil society, local government and citizenship,” according to Global’s website.
When asked what prompted him to return to politics, Sullivan replied: “I realized that all of the great thoughts, all of the great academic studies aren’t worth anything unless you do something with them. That’s what I want to do.”
So far, Sullivan will face Matt Toner of the NDP and Daniel Tseghay of the Green Party in the May 14 election. The B.C. Conservatives have promised to run a candidate.
Vancouver-False Creek is a diverse riding that includes a large chunk of downtown and parts of Chinatown, the Olympic Village and Kitsilano. Mary McNeil is the riding’s current Liberal MLA but is not seeking re-election.