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Local Tories slow to accept Romano's squeaker win (5 photos, update)

The Conservative incumbent was on the streets campaigning until 1:30 a.m. Thursday. He started again at 6 a.m. and ran all day

Ross Romano never stopped believing.

During the provincial election campaign, the Sault's Conservative incumbent had been adamant he'd be re-elected and Doug Ford would be premier with a Conservative majority.

The PC majority was quickly apparent tonight, but the local race was close.

So close that local Tories gathered at the Marconi Club refused to celebrate Ford's provincial victory until they were absolutely certain that homeboy Romano had defeated New Democrat Michele McCleave-Kennedy.

By the end of the night, Romano chalked up 13,498 votes, compared to 13,084 for the NDP.

Romano knew it would be closer than bark to a tree.

At 1:30 a.m. on Election Day, he and his campaign team were still on the streets, dropping off door-hangers.

"We knew this was going down to the wire," he said during his victory speech.

"Our team was up at six o'clock this morning running the doors. Ran all day. None of this would have been possible without such an extraordinary team."

Here are the local also-rans:

  • Jaclynne Hamel, Liberal - 3,199
  • Kara Flannigan, Green - 1,044
  • Sandra Holmberg, Northern Ontario Party - 993
  • Lance Brizard, Libertarian - 299

Romano said his get-out-the-vote team on Thursday consisted of more than 60 people, including his mother Lina.

"I caught her at one point of the day and she was sprinting to doors," he said.

His volunteers didn't stop working until 19 minutes before the polls closed at 9 p.m.

"As a Progressive Conservative, you often have to work twice as hard to get half as far. This was one of those races, right to the eleventh hour."

"I know we left it all on the field. We did everything we possibly could and then some."

"I look forward to working with our new premier, Doug Ford, under a PC banner, under a PC majority government."

"He stepped into a role at the 11th hour. That can't be easy, and lost on anyone, how hard he had to work. He prioritized our community. He was here three times."

"There was a lot of attacking. It was unfortunate that this campaign wasn't run cleaner. I wanted to focus on the issues. There was a lot of negative ad campaigns against our party. There was a lot of negative ad campaigns against me personally. Phone calls that were being made and such. I tried to stay above that and just focus on the issues."

"I've certainly never experienced anything like this.... But it just motivated us to work even harder."

Can Romano work with Doug Ford? He thinks so.

"He is an extremely approachable guy. I remember numerous occasions through the campaign, speaking with him. I would send him a text message, telephone him. He was immediate to return calls. We had numerous conversations. I think he's a great guy. I get along exceptionally well with him. I know that he wants to make changes in this province. He wants to make changes in Northern Ontario."

Will it make any difference that Romano didn't initially support Ford's run for the PC leadership?

"I don't think it matters at all. When Doug came to Sault Ste. Marie during the leadership race, I met him at the airport. I brought him to an event here in the Sault. I took him around the city."

"Leadership processes are naturally divisive. I don't think that matters at all at this stage. Based on the relationship we formed together in the last number of months, I feel very positive and I know what kind of a man he is and he knows what kind of a man I am. We're both... people that want to get things done and to see our government working for the people and not people working for the government."

Romano said his first priority now will be getting the steel mill out of insolvency protection, then continuing his work on U.S. tariffs, the Ring of Fire and getting a ferrochrome processing plant for Sault Ste. Marie.

Anyone expecting Doug Ford's Buck-a-Beer to be available immediately at Romano's victory party would have been disappointed.

A cash bar at the Marconi Club was selling premium beer for $6 a bottle and domestic brew for $5.

At Doug Ford's party in Toronto, domestic beer cost twice as much: $10. Premium brands were $11.50


David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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