Three local MLAs have confirmed they intend to run in the next provincial election May 2013, but Abbotsford Mission MLA Randy Hawes is still mulling it over.
"A politician should never say never," he said Tuesday. "I have no decision as of yet. I am contemplating what I'm going to do, and probably after the summer, I'll make my mind up of what I'll do, or what I'm not going to do."
Sometime in September, Hawes added, "Either I'll have a new pair of running shoes [in which to run], or a new set of golf clubs. I'll make an announcement one way or another."
Speculation on who is running and who may not is growing around the province, as more MLAs declare their departure from politics.
Since the last election in 2009, several B.C. Liberals said they won't be running in 2013, while Chilliwack's Barry Penner and Port Moody's Iain Black have already left and have been replaced in by-elections.
Those leaving the B.C. Liberals include Murray Coell, Kevin Krueger, Harry Bloy, Kash Heed and most recently Dave Hayer. New Democrat MLAs Michael Sather and Dawn Black have also said they are stepping down. In March, shortly after former Liberal colleague Abbotsford South MLA John van Dongen defected in colourful fashion to the B.C. Conservative Party, Hawes suggested he may not run again.
"Look at me, I'm 65 years old. I'm going to think about retiring. Twenty years, that's long enough, maybe," he said at the time.
His colleague on the north side of the Fraser, Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton, said he will be in the 2013 contest after his first term.
"I really enjoy making a difference, whether it's with individuals or with organizations. It's been a real privilege," he said Wednesday. However, this "staunch conservative" who ran for the federal Tories in 2006 said his party faces a centre-right split.
"I find that disconcerting. One of the reasons I ran for the B.C. Liberals is that it is a coalition, and when we're united, we keep the NDP out."
Health Minister and Abbotsford West MLA Michael de Jong said he is eager to run again in May. After 19 years as MLA, including 12 years in government during which he has held five cabinet posts, de Jong said he feels fortunate for getting the opportunity from voters to do those jobs.
"I think I'm the luckiest guy in the world to be able to represent the people of Abbotsford. I still have an enthusiasm for the job; it still excites me. It will be up to the people to determine how excited they are about me," he quipped.
Despite the B.C. Liberals' numbers tanking in the polls, particularly those of leader Christy Clark, de Jong remains upbeat, although pragmatic.
"There is an ebb and flow to politics. I never take the results of an election for granted," he said. "I will present myself to the people and ask them to consider the work I've done."
He listed improvements to the Abbotsford airport, local roads, establishing the University of the Fraser Valley and the creation of the Abbotsford Regional Hospital among the achievements of his government, a spotlight he often shared with local partners and his former B.C. Liberal colleague, John van Dongen.
Van Dongen, now running for the Conservative Party of B.C. after his surprising departure from the B.C. Liberals in March, is also keen to run.
"Election time is for voters to take stock, and for incumbent MLAs to be accountable. I look forward to it. I'm certain there will be lots to talk about," he said Tuesday. Van Dongen also held four cabinet posts in his 17 years with the B.C. Liberals, although he has faced down more controversy than de Jong.
While he grew disillusioned with his former party, van Dongen said he remains passionate about serving his community and province.
"No, I'm not cynical about it at all. I still believe passionately in our democratic system, and I enjoy serving the public."
Another name that pops up in the local rumour mill regarding provincial or federal politics is that of James Atebe, ousted from his post as the mayor of Mission in the municipal election last fall. On Wednesday Atebe said he's enjoying his "non-pressure time" and hasn't thought about getting back into the political game, but added, "You can never close that option."
After 12 years in local government, six of them in "24/7 intense work as mayor," Atebe said he is reconnecting with family and his career as a city planner.
"Being the mayor was enjoyable, it was satisfying and rewarding but it took time from my profession, from my family," Atebe said.
"I would like to reflect a little bit more. Once you jump in, you have to jump in 110 per cent."