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What it took to win that election

When SooToday spoke to Ross Romano late last night after 19 straight hours of campaigning, he was still talking about going out at midnight to pick up election signs
Romano victory
Ross Romano unwinds with supporters after beating five opponents Thursday to be re-elected as Sault Ste. Marie's MPP

Rosario (Ross) Romano's Election Day started at 4:10 a.m. with his morning smoothie.

When Romano's in what he thinks might be a tight race, he pulls out all the stops.

Just three hours earlier, he'd been with his mom Lina in Bayview neighbourhood, hanging cards on doorknobs until 1 a.m.

"As a Progressive Conservative, you often have to work twice as hard to get half as far," he told SooToday after a similar eleventh-hour campaign sprint during the 2018 provincial election.

Yesterday, Romano and his get-out-the-vote team visited an unprecedented 5,000 doors before calling it quits just 30 minutes before the polls closed.

"We finished on Parkview Court. I decided to pull the pin at 8:30 p.m. on the dot. I finished the street. I think it was the third time I was in there today."

"We have never had numbers like today .... We started on Day 1 with 800. By Day 2 it was 1,200. By today, at 10 or 12 we were breaking 2,000."

All that work paid off.

Romano was re-elected as Sault MPP, collecting 12,606 votes, 2,577 more than his nearest opponent, New Democrat Michele McCleave-Kennedy.

Provincially, his PC Party of Ontario, headed by Doug Ford, won another majority government.

Both Liberal leader Steven Del Duca and NDP leader Andrea Horwath announced they'll resign as leaders of their respective parties.

By the time SooToday interviewed Romano at his victory party at Quattro around 11 p.m., he was visibly wincing from foot pain.

"My best door-knocker is still my mom. I kept trying to tell her: 'four years, mom, since the last one. We don't have to hit as many this time.' I don't know how she does it. I think she hit more doors on this campaign than the last one."

Ross told us the four years since the 2018 election have made a substantial difference in his ability to physically withstand all that pavement-pounding.

"I notice my body – the difference from 38 years old versus 42 years, I was really sore. Walking down the stairs in the morning is infinitely harder than it was."

This was a two-pair-of-shoes election for Romano.

His toe broke through the upper of the left shoe of his first pair during just the second week of campaigning. 

In addition to all that door-knocking, Romano also had campaign crews working the phones, and a sign team whose work ethic angered some environmentally conscious voters.

"I think the signs are an important part of the election," he said.

"But it's also very important to get rid of them, because people don't want to see them any more once the election is over, probably even before it ended. It's important to remove them quickly."

So important that, at 11 p.m. last night, Romano was preparing to go out at midnight to start the sign clean-up work.

During the campaign, Romano spoke out against misinformation spread by provincial NDP campaign staff, falsely insinuating that he didn't live in Sault Ste. Marie.

Last night he repeated his belief that the local 2022 election had "reached a level that was unbecoming of how I would have campaigned."

"I think it's important to play your own game, to not go to a certain level."

"We managed to run a campaign, keeping our core values intact, maintaining our integrity."

"We had 70 volunteers out today, running around to people's houses to pull the vote," said McCleave-Kennedy, the local NDP candidate. 

The New Democrats deployed a group of about 30 young people who distributed flyers and canvassed daily on her behalf.

McCleave-Kennedy also had help from local labour unions. 

"It wasn't the result that we wanted, but we ran a kick-ass campaign."

Candidates kicked to the curb by McCleave and Romano included the maximally gluted New Blue candidate Shane Pankhurst (3.3 per cent), and Liberal Liam Hancock, who somehow managed to collect six per cent of the vote without ever significantly getting off his backside to campaign or even return calls from media organizations. 

Also running were Naomi Sayers, who got four per cent of the vote as an independent candidate; and the Green Party's Keagan Gilfillan, who received 2.5 per cent.

Voter turnout in Sault Ste. Marie was 44.11 per cent, Elections Ontario reported.

Michael Mantha was re-elected in Algoma-Manitoulin, with 46 per cent of the vote, compared to 35.4 per cent for Progressive Conservative Cheryl Fort.

- with files from Darren Taylor, James Hopkin, Ken Armstrong and the Canadian Press