Fraser Valley provincial Liberals chose veteran Abbotsford councillor Simon Gibson over the less-experienced Mission councillor Tony Luck to represent them in the Abbotsford-Mission riding, after a low-key nomination vote on Dec. 6.
Gibson won the riding nomination Thursday evening by a vote of 93 to 80 over Luck.
"I'm thrilled to have your support. I just love this constituency, I think there is so much potential here," Gibson said in a brief acceptance speech to a crowd of about 60 B.C. Liberal volunteers and supporters.
"This party is going places, there is renewal here," he said. "I look forward to working with the premier. We are going to win this riding . . . but we'll have to work together as a team."
Gibson thanked Luck for putting his name forward for the contest, calling him "a real gentleman and a great guy."
As councillors, the two work often together on joint municipal committees.
"I look forward to working with you Tony - I'm going to work hard for Mission and for Abbotsford and [hope to] work together with you," he told Luck after bringing him up to the podium.
Gibson also thanked the man he will replace, MLA Randy Hawes, for his "tireless work" in the constituency over the past 12 years, noting he left "big shoes to fill."
After 30 years in a council seat, first with the District of Matsqui and then with Abbotsford after the two municipalities merged in 1996, this was Gibson's second foray into higher-level politics. He had run unsuccessfully for the B.C. Reform Party in 1996.
He's regarded as one of the more fiscally cautious councillors on the council, and a social conservative who has spoken up against casinos in the past.
Gibson currently teaches four courses in the School of Business at the University of the Fraser Valley, in human resources, entrepreneurship and marketing.
The 62-year-old long-distance runner also writes a regular faith column for the Times, a syndicated column called Office Politics 101, and an occasional student advice column for New Home Living, a Mandarin-language magazine based in Richmond.
The win came for Gibson even though Luck had an early start in September when he was endorsed by Hawes, who announced his retirement from politics. Luck has also had public support from Mission Mayor Ted Adlem.
Before the results were known, Hawes gave words of advice, warning that the May 14, 2013 election will be an "uphill fight" and he cautioned Liberals from being lulled into complacency by improved poll numbers.
"If you think we're going to win in May . . . this is a big fight, in every riding by riding by riding. We don't have a free enterprise government in this province unless every single riding works, not through what the party does out of Victoria, but what happens on the ground and because of the volunteers," he said.
People will have to be prepared to "slug it out in the trenches, to let people know free enterprise is how we move the province ahead, and through socialism we move back to where we were [with an New Democratic government]. For the sake of my kids, my grandkids, your kids, we don't want to go there," said Hawes, a former Mission mayor who won the riding nomination in 2001 during a far more raucous meeting that required the presence of the RCMP for four hours.
Another Abbotsford councillor, Moe Gill, who had intended to run in Abbotsford South but said he was strong-armed by the party to run in Abbotsford-Mission, did not make an appearance.
Other Liberal candidates present included Darryl Plecas (Abbotsford South), John Martin (Chilliwack), Laurie Throness (Chilliwack-Hope), along with Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton.
Other local Liberal candidates include incumbent Mike de Jong in Abbotsford West and newcomer Darryl Plecas in Abbotsford South, where former Liberal John van Dongen is running as an independent.
The New Democrats hold their nomination contest for Abbotsford-Mission on Jan. 6 at the Mission Leisure Centre. The contestants are Wendy Bales, in her second term as the Fraser Valley Regional District director for electoral area C, and current Abbotsford Board of Education trustee Preet Rai.
The NDP already has confirmed candidates Lakhvinder Jhaj in Abbotsford South, and Sukhi Dhami in Abbotsford West, both small business operators, and in Maple Ridge-Mission, Media Union of BC president Mike Bocking.
Aird Flavelle, who ran for Abbotsford city council last year, will run in Abbotsford-Mission for the Green Party. The Greens don't have any candidates announced for the Abbotsford west and south ridings yet.
As for the B.C. Conservatives, communications director Kristy Fredericks said the party has had "several excellent candidates express interest in nomination with party in both Abbotsford and Mission" but nomination meeting dates have not yet been set.