Tuesday, June 23, 2009

One more stop for the summer tour

The announcement that Con MP Inky Mark plans to retire raises the question of whether. And while Mark's 61% vote share in 2008 would seem to suggest an awfully tough climb for either the NDP or the Libs, the Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette riding may well be a classic case of an incumbent racking up votes due to a lack of challengers rather than a true stronghold.

After all, the 2008 totals for the NDP (16%) and Libs (14%) were both the lowest in decades - the Libs hadn't done worse since 1984, the NDP since 1963. And the riding has been home to some fascinating shifts in party support in the past.

Mark first won the seat in 1997 with 35% of the vote - in a race where three other parties topped 20% of the vote, with Lib incumbent Marlene Cowling coming in fourth. Before Cowling's victory in 1993, the seat was a two-way battle between the PCs and NDP through the '70s and '80s, and a three-way or four-way battle for most of the three decades before that - starting with a 1940 race where 811 votes separated the Libs in first from the CCF in third.

Of course, there may be a case to be made that the riding has changed fundamentally over the past decade. But considering that only one election saw a candidate take more than 50% of the vote in the riding in 70 years before Mark reached that plateau in 2004, there would figure to be some significant potential to make the seat competitive again. And one can't figure the opposition parties will want to let that chance pass.

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