The head of the B.C. Conservatives says the number of people coming forward to seek a nomination for the party in preparation for the next provincial election in May has been "overwhelming."
"Both the number and the calibre of potential candidates is proving to be a surprise - and a very pleasant one at that," party leader John Cummins said.
In response, the party has stepped up its nomination process, and Cummins expects the first nominations to begin by mid-September.
The party estimates there are more than 50 people around B.C. so far who are keen to run for nominations, said Shannon Kewley, who along with James Mitchell, was recently named as co-chair of the B.C. Conservatives' candidate recruitment committee. The two experienced campaigners were assigned to oversee the recruitment work due to the "deluge of inquiries from interested candidates," said Lambert Leung, the party's acting campaign manager.
Kewley, a past supporter of Conservative MP John Reynolds from West Vancouver, said the flood of interest began to rise in July.
She speculated the interest has grown as Cummins tours the province and raises his party's profile as an alternative to what she called the "tax and grab policies" of the other main parties, the B.C. Liberals and the New Democrats, and as Premier Christy Clark's numbers tank in the polls.
"In just the past week we've had 10 inquiries in the Interior, from Vancouver and Richmond," she said. Ridings in the Shuswap, Okanagan, Vernon and Kelowna areas may each have three or four nominees, she added.
"We expect to see some spirited nominations. That's healthy," said Kewley.
Candidates are of all ages and backgrounds, she said, including lawyers, teachers, business owners and parents.
"We have a wonderful, diverse mix of people coming forward, with a mixed bag of political beliefs," Kewley said.
Abbotsford South MLA John van Dongen, who has sat as an independent since leaving the B.C. Liberals in March to join the BCCP, said in the last four months he's been approached by half a dozen community leaders who have a "pretty high level of interest" in running for the party.
They're eyeing the Abbotsford-Mission and Abbotsford West ridings, he said.
While they are not ready to come forward, van Dongen said he was confident they weren't just "window shopping."
With polls indicating coming changes in the political landscape, it's expected that both incumbents and newcomers will be carefully weighing their options, he added.
Some Liberal veterans have already said they're retiring from politics, while Abbotsford-Mission MLA Randy Hawes said he may announce his decision next month.