Many thought it would be a cake walk, but it looks like this may be Dianne Watts’ toughest campaign battle since 2005.
Watts came out on top after a hard battle with then mayor Doug McCallum.
This time around, she may not be so successful.
Long-time Conservative riding
Watts is running in South Surrey-White Rock.
It’s a riding primarily made up of the old Conservative-held South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale riding, but also pulls in from the old Newton-North Delta riding held by the NDP’s Jinny Sims, and Fleetwood-Port Kells held by long-time Conservative MP Nina Grewal.
Even though it is a “new” riding, a look at redistributed totals from the 2011 election and one can assume it would be an easy win for Watts, who was an extremely popular mayor in Canada’s fastest growing city.
But this election is turning out to be anything but an an easy win for Watts.
If we are to believe at least one election prediction site, as of October 4th, South Surrey-White Rock is up in the air.
And in the worst case scenario for Watts, according to two other sites; one by the Toronto Star (working with Vox Pop Labs), the other by the CBC (working with ThreeHundredEight.com founder Eric Grenier), the riding is a projected win for Liberal candidate and former Surrey City Councillor Judy Higginbotham.
Ad campaign launched
Watts hasn’t been doing media interviews, which is unusual for her, but her campaign is now running radio advertising.
October 19th is election day and your chance to keep public safety a top priority. I’m Dianne Watts, your Conservative candidate for South Surrey-White Rock. We’ve passed over sixty pieces of public safety legislation, including the Victims Bill of Rights. We’re recruiting 2500 new police officer, will increase the annual contribution to our Youth Gang Prevention Fund, from $7.5-million to $10-million annually. On October 19th, please join me and the Conservative team to keep public safety a top priority across this country.
It’s something that’s not atypical with just two weeks until voting day, but does add to the notion she may be feeling the pressure.
Surrey a battleground
Watts’ campaign team declined an interview request from CKNW, saying she was busy with election-related events.
However, the Liberals say what they’re seeing in her riding is also being seen elsewhere in Surrey.
Ken Hardie is the Liberal candidate in Fleetwood-Port Kells, a riding which has been held by the Conservatives since it was created in 2004.
The polls also have Hardie ahead of long-time MP Nina Grewal.
He notes there have been signs of trouble in the Watts campaign for some time.
“When Dianne Watts posted some things on Facebook, the reaction that she got was a combination of disappointment, that she had thrown her lot in with Mr. Harper, and the inadequacies of Conservative policies.”
Hardie says there appears to be a disconnect between Dianne Watts as mayor, and Dianne Watts as Conservative candidate.
This was probably best seen last month, when Watts came under fire for a campaign mail-out.
It read, “We will fight jihadist terrorists at home and abroad,” next to a Conservative Party logo.
Speaking to CKNW at the time, Watts tried to put some distance between herself and campaign headquarters.
“I think that people deliver messages in different ways and they have different styles. I have not used that style. The national campaign has used that and some people will align with that and some people will align with the messaging that I have.”
Watts insists she still toes the party line, but puts Surrey first.
Campaign fights across Surrey
Hardie notes the story of Watts’ riding and his are different.
“Everybody is well aware of the performance, or lack thereof, of the incumbent, Nina Grewal.”
Grewal and her husband, former MP Gurmant Grewal, have been controversial political figures.
Gurmant Grewal stepped down just before the 2006 election campaign, after secretly recording conversations, including ones with former NDP Premier and Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh, supposedly to show the Liberals were trying to get him and his wife to cross over.
He tried to seek the Conservative nomination in Cloverdale-Langley this time around, but was blocked by his party.
The Grewals’ son, Liv, was booted as the party’s candidate in Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon earlier this summer.
NDP also battling
It’s not just the Conservatives who are battling to hang on to seats in Surrey.
The polls suggest the NDP’s Jinny Sims is trailing former Liberal MP Sukh Dhaliwal in Surrey-Newton.
And in Surrey-Centre, they suggest a dead heat between incumbent Jasbir Sandhu from the NDP, and the Liberal’s Randeep Sarai.