Renee Merrifield declared elected in Kelowna-Mission

Merrifield 'elated' with win

UPDATE 10:43 p.m. 

BC Liberal candidate Renee Merrifield is "elated, exhausted and absolutely excited" following her win in the Kelowna-Mission riding.

Merrifield was declared elected with 53 per cent of the vote Saturday evening, and says her involvement in this year's election was a humbling experience.

Following the win, she immediately thanked the volunteers and everyone who had helped her on the campaign trail, as well as the constituents who took the time to vote in the midst of a pandemic.

But Merrifield reserved some of her highest praise for former Kelowna-Mission Liberal MLA Steve Thomson, who announced his retirement from the seat last year after 11 years in office.  

"I hope to make Steve Thomson proud and carry on his legacy. He is an absolutely amazing, extraordinary human being and MLA," she says.

"He was sometimes my first phone call to say, 'Steve, what would you do in this situation?’ and just a listening ear and amazing wisdom, and always a text away ... he was absolutely available and that was who he was as our MLA. I learned a lot from him over the short five weeks and I can’t wait to make him proud and to carry on the legacy that he started."

UPDATE 9:07 p.m.

Even though polls closed just over an hour ago, it looks like BC Liberal candidate Renee Merrifield will easily take the Kelowna-Mission riding. 

After 45 of the 113 ballot boxes counted, Merrifield has 53 per cent of the vote with 2,023 votes. She jumped out to a large lead immediately and has continued to pull away, so the Canadian Press has now declared her elected.

This riding is one of the safest Liberal seats in B.C. The NDP has never won the seat since the Kelowna-Mission riding was formed in 1991, or its predecessor the Okanagan-West riding. 

BC Green Party Amanda Poon has 782 and BC NDP candidate Krystal Smith has 1,005 votes.

UPDATE 8:45 p.m.

BC Liberal candidate Renee Merrifield is off to an early lead, with over 50 per cent of the votes as early results start coming in for the Kelowna-Mission riding.  

With 18 of 113 ballot boxes counted Merrifield is leading the way with 593 votes. 

BC Green Party Amanda Poon is just behind with 250 and BC NDP candidate Krystal Smith has 322 votes.

ORIGINAL 7:00 p.m.

Provincial polls close at 8 p.m., and in the riding of Kelowna-Mission, three candidates are vying for the vacant seat of longtime Liberal MLA Steve Thomson.

Thomson spent 11 years in office before announcing he would not run again last year.

Candidates trying to replace him are BC Liberal Renee Merrifield, Green candidate Amanda Poon and the NDP's Krystal Smith. 

This is one-of-three ridings in the province that have all-female candidates.

"I'm absolutely thrilled that a woman is going to be the next MLA in this riding. I think that's definitely indicative of where we are going as a society and I think it's incredibly positive," Merrifield said Saturday prior to polls closing. 

Looking back at the campaign, Merrifield said the pandemic has made it all a bit surreal. 

"It's a little bit bizarre, we had our scrutineers that came to the headquarters this morning and they're taking your temperature, they're making sure they have their kit ready - which has mask and gloves."

Krystal Smith agreed that it was a very different campaign this time around, "but thanks to Elections BC, and by using some new procedures, we were able to do this safely."

Merrifield said it was difficult to be a political newcomer during a pandemic election as gatherings were not allowed, but said Thomson really supported her through the transition. 

"I am fortunate that I have been involved in this community and in this riding and have lived in this riding for the last 25 years. I have 191 neighbours on my street, who have seen me at everything from Christmas parties to our cul-de-sac hangouts so, from that perspective it's been a little bit easier for me."

Emotions are all over the map leading up to the polls closing. 

"I have this wave of nervousness and anxiousness and the next moment I'm excited," says Merrifield. 

"Right now, we're waiting for the last of the votes to be cast, and we'll be watching - separately - to see what the results will bring," says Smith. 

The NDP has never won the seat since the Kelowna-Mission riding was formed in 1991, or its predecessor the Okanagan-West riding. 

This story will be updated throughout Saturday night with reaction from the candidates as the results roll in.

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