Thirty-six years since Sault Ste. Marie last sent a Conservative to Queens Park, Doug Ford Jr. was in town last night to celebrate the byelection victory of Ross Romano.
And, to officially welcome the Sault into the Toronto-based Conservative populist phenomenon known as Ford Nation.
"I love Sault Ste. Marie. They're down to earth. They are Ford Nation. They're great," crowed the older brother of former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who died of cancer 14 months ago.
Was Doug Ford Jr. really expropriating us into Ford Nation?
"Absolutely," the former Toronto city councillor told SooToday.
"We have Ford Nation up here, a lot of supporters. God bless Sault Ste. Marie and the people here. I love 'em!"
While Doug Ford Jr. and Ontario Conservative Leader Patrick Brown were physically present to congratulate Romano, neither NDP candidate Joe Krmpotich nor Liberal Debbie Amaroso found their way to the Quattro Hotel to shake the winner's hand.
Amaroso, a former Sault Ste. Marie mayor, issued a congratulatory news release.
Krmpotich phoned it in.
In a series of social media posts, Green Party candidate Kara Flannigan lamented that she'd received 1.99 per cent of the vote, just a hair short of the two per cent needed to retain party financing.
"We have lost our funding so we will have to rely on donations to keep us going. Do you see how important it is for electoral reform?" Flannigan posted on her Facebook page.
"Do you think media had anything to do with the message or access to information?" she asked in an early-hours post Friday morning.
"You probably didn't know what you even voted for!" she said in another.
The Sault byelection was called after David Orazietti resigned as Sault MPP and Ontario's minister of community safety and correctional services
Turnout 43.93 per cent
Turnout was 43.93 per cent of 58,690 registered electors, considered high for a provincial byelection.
Compare it to turnout in other recent provincial byelections:
- 40.71 per cent in the 2015 Simcoe North byelection
- 39.9 per cent in the 2015 Sudbury byelection
- 31.98 per cent in the 2016 Niagara West-Glanbrook byelection
- 36.36 per cent in the 2016 Ottawa-Vanier byelection
- 28.14 per cent in the 2016 Scarborough-Rouge River byelection
- 28.94 per cent in the 2016 Whitby-Oshawa byelection
Here in the Sault, Ross Romano won Thursday's byelection with 1,856 votes to spare over New Democrat Krmpotich.
Liberal Amaroso was a distant third with 5,919 votes.
Here's the final tally:
- Ross Romano, PC Party of Ontario, 10,391 votes or 40.30 per cent
- Joe Krmpotich, Ontario NDP, 8,535 votes or 33.10 per cent
- Debbie Amaroso, Ontario Liberal Party, 5,919 votes or 22.96 per cent
- Kara Flannigan, Green Party of Ontario, 512 votes or 1.99 per cent
- Above Znoneofthe, None of the Above Party, 310 votes or 1.20 per cent
- Gene Balfour, Libertarian, 71 votes or 0.28 per cent
- John Turmel, Paupers Party, 47 votes or 0.18 per cent
Romano, a Ward 6 councillor, lawyer and 37-year-old father of three, won the Sault with a time-honoured shoeleather campaign: six months of repeat visits to every doorstep in the riding.
Even on election day, he said he put in nine hours of door-knocking to get out the vote.
The Romano byelection campaign had two secret weapons: Ross's mother Lina and father Tony.
Both were also deployed to great effect in Romano's first foray into politics - his 2014 campaign for Ward 6 councillor.
In 2014, Lina came home from work each day at 2 p.m. and cooked for Ross's campaign volunteers, then joined them on the hustings.
After several hours of door-knocking, she served supper to the volunteers and cleaned up afterward.
"Every day was the same," she told SooToday.
The byelection campaign, however, was different.
"I said this one is too long. This is six months. I don't think I can cook for everyone."
Instead, Lina joined the door-knockers each day at 2 p.m. until 8 p.m.
"From January 1 until 10 minutes ago," she said.
Tony Romano spent many hours on sign duty.
During the 2014 Ward 6 campaign, Tony cut out an image of son Ross from one of his campaign signs and placed it in the front passenger seat of his car.
"He forced my mother to ride in the back seat," Ross recalls.
"I think he started a new campaign trend. I think it's a great marketing strategy," he said.
"Dad, I would not be here, obviously, without you," Ross quipped last night.
"To Kathleen Wynne, I hope you are listening. There is no riding left in this province that you can take for granted," Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown said last night at Romano's victory celebration. "There is no such thing as a safe Liberal seat."