The NDP has officially thrown a contender into the ring to challenge long-term incumbent John van Dongen for the Abbotsford South riding in the provincial election in May.
Lakhvinder Jhaj - a mother of three with a background in farming, small business, and community activism - is lining up against van Dongen, who has held the Liberal stronghold riding for 17 years, but crossed the floor to join the B.C. Conservatives in March.
Jhaj, who moved back to her childhood home of Abbotsford with her family two years ago, spent 24 years in Penticton and was the NDP candidate for the Boundary-Similkameen riding in the 2009 election, when she lost the race by three per cent.
Terry Stobbart, NDP Abbotsford South riding president, said that with the rising popularity of the New Democrats province-wide, and a potential splitting of the vote between the Liberals and Conservatives in the traditionally right-of-centre riding, a genuine three-way fight is shaping up.
"I anticipate a highly interesting provincial election in Abbotsford South in May. It certainly does create a better chance for the NDP to gain from a vote split and that is definitely in our best interest," said Stobbart.
Jhaj, a South Asian with a small business and farming background, represents a significant sector of the demographic represented in Abbotsford South, she said.
"It is a huge benefit for us . . . to represent a community that is traditionally under-represented," said Stobbart.
In the last provincial election in 2009, van Dongen swept the riding as a Liberal with 58.5 per cent of vote, which was more than doubled the tally of NDP candidate Bonnie Rai who got 25.6 per cent.
The B.C. Liberal nominations for the riding have yet to take place but Abbotsford city councillor Moe Gill has said he will consider trying to secure the Abbotsford South candidacy.
Given the voting history of the riding, Jhaj and the NDP are prepared to do a lot of political stumping to make headway in Abbotsford South, said Stobbart.
"Mr. van Dongen has got lots of loyal supporters in the riding and we understand that and are not assuming anything," she said.
"We're not overconfident and Lakhvinder will have to work very hard . . . but we'll see you never know in politics.
- To get John van Dongen and Lakhvinder Jhaj's thoughts on the upcoming race in the Abbotsford South riding, see Thursday's edition of the Abbotsford-Mission Times.