Liberal challenger and city councillor Irek Kusmierczyk celebrates his victory as new MP for Windsor-Tecumseh on Oct. 21, 2019. Dan Janisse / Windsor Star
After 19 years of being NDP orange, the federal riding of Windsor-Tecumseh is a shocking new colour: Liberal red.
Irek Kusmierczyk is the riding’s new member of parliament — taking the seat from New Democrat incumbent Cheryl Hardcastle in a tense, back-and-forth race on Monday night.
“Folks, we did it!” Kusmierczyk told a cheering crowd of Liberal supporters at John Max sports bar.
“It’s hard to believe that we started this campaign four weeks ago, and we’ve achieved so much … I am humbled — extremely humbled.”
After 99 per cent of polls had reported, Kusmierczyk’s result was a 33.4 per cent majority (18,583 votes) of the riding’s total elector turnout.
Dedicating the victory to his parents, Kusmierczyk said the voters of Windsor-Tecumseh made a “clear choice tonight” to support a candidate who offered “a strong voice in Ottawa and a seat at the table.”
The two leading candidates traded the top spot deep into the night as the polls turned in their numbers.
At one point, with just over 70 per cent of polls tallied, there was a two-vote difference between Kusmierczyk and Hardcastle.
Windsor NDP supporters at the Serbian Centre watch as poll results come in on election night, Oct. 21, 2019. Dalson Chen / Windsor Star
Conservative candidate Leo Demarce was left in third place throughout the night, ending with 27.9 per cent (around 15,500 votes).
A defiant Hardcastle said she isn’t done fighting for “a government that takes care of everyone.”
"I've always been a community oriented person and I'm going to continue doing that, but tonight it's about my team, it's about the Windsor-Tecumseh NDP riding. Incredible, incredible people with a real passion for making sure that all voices are heard," she added.
“We’re not finished here,” Hardcastle told NDP supporters and volunteers at Windsor’s Serbian Centre after the outcome was clear.
"We've talked to a lot of folks at the door and a lot of the folks are ready. They wanted a voice in Ottawa; they wanted a seat at the table. This is something that residents wanted and this is what we heard here tonight in Windsor-Tecumseh," he says.
“You don’t have to be a member of parliament to be invested in your community. You know me. I’m a comunity activist. I’m a social justice champion.”
Hardcastle, 57, became Windsor-Tecumseh’s MP in 2015, when she succeeded long-serving New Democrat Joe Comartin.
You're reading that correctly. 70% of polls in #Windsor-Tecumseh have reported and the difference between @CHardcastleNDP @NDP and @Irek_K @liberal_party is two votes. TWO. #cdnpoli #elxn43 pic.twitter.com/wKRX7sa1HM
The riding has been NDP orange since 2000, when it was called Windsor-St. Clair and Comartin took office by defeating the Liberal Party’s Rick Limoges.
Kusmierczyk, city councillor for Ward 7, made a return to federal politics as the Liberal Party’s hope to steal the riding this election.
The 41-year-old team member of WEtech Alliance had a whirlwind campaign that relied heavily on the good will he built from three successful municipal elections and six years on city council.
Kusmierczyk previously ran for the riding’s federal seat in 2011 — when he earned just 12.9 per cent of the vote compared to Joe Comartin’s 49.9 per cent.
But Masse withstood all that. He’s been in office for 17 years. Everyone knows and likes him. He’s a nice guy who consistently advocated for the border, auto industry and environment, coached kids hockey and threw out the first pitch at kids’ baseball games.
Meanwhile, Conservative candidate Demarce — a newcomer to federal politics — expressed satisfaction with his final figure, which was comparable to the Tory result in the riding in 2015.
The area hasn’t had a Conservative federal representative since 1935, but Demarce sought to tap into local dissatisfaction with the Liberals and antipathy for Justin Trudeau.
Despite a third-place defeat, Demarce said entering the contest was a “great experience,” and that he was blessed with a “real groundswell” of support.
But clearly, it wasn’t easy. Kusmierczyk didn’t announce he was running until 13 days before the election. Then he faced a three-way nomination race. Then he faced an incumbent whose party has held the riding for almost two decades.
“Most people told me they’re afraid for the future and they’re upset with their Prime Minister,” Demarce said.
Leo Demarce, Conservative candidate for Windsor-Tecumseh, watches election results at his campaign party in Windsor on Oct. 21, 2019. Taylor Campbell / Windsor Star
Far back in the race were the Green Party’s Giovanni Abati (3.8 per cent of the votes), People’s Party of Canada candidate Dan Burr (2.3 per cent), and Laura Chesnik for the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada (0.3 per cent).
Early projections suggested Windsor-Tecumseh would be a three-way battle, with the poll analysis website 338Canada.com estimating 33.6 per cent support for Hardcastle, 30.5 per cent support for Kusmierczyk, and 29.5 per cent support for Demarce.
But in recent weeks, the predictions tilted towards Hardcastle, and 338Canada.com’s projection on Monday morning was that the riding would be “likely NDP.”
Campaign signs for the NDPs Cheryl Hardcastle at the Serbian Centre in Windsor on election night, Oct. 21, 2019. Dalson Chen / Windsor Star
[email protected] arrives at the Serbian Centre, where she's comforted by @LGretzky, @PercyHatfield, and other local NDPers. It's the first time #Windsor-Tecumseh won't have a @NDP MP in 19 years. pic.twitter.com/RH5BH4MXap
"We're not finished here," says a defiant @CHardcastleNDP. "I'm gonna continue. Because you don't have to be a member of parliament to be invested in your community. You know me. I'm a community activist. I'm a social justice champion." #Windsor-Tecumseh #cdnpoli #elxn43 pic.twitter.com/nqBge2YV3R