The race to replace former premier Kathy Dunderdale got a bit clearer Monday, as Justice Minister Darin King bowed out and two other candidates made it sound very much like they’re close to jumping in.
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Former Tory Natural Resources minister Shawn Skinner said he’s making his final decision.
“I want to be in this race,” he said. “But I’m only going into it if I feel I have support of the people.”
Last Friday, the PC party announced that nominations for the leadership race would open Monday and would close March 14.
The party decided that the spending limit for candidates in the race would be $350,000. In the past few weeks, Skinner has said he’s very interested in running, but he’s not a rich guy, and he’s worried he won’t be able to drum up as much money as other candidates.
On Monday, he said he can live with what the party laid out.
“I still think it’s a lot of money,” he said. “I would have preferred if it was kept at $200,000, but I can understand the party’s rationale.”
The other candidate who sounds like he’s seriously considering a run is Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Kent.
“I would like to lead the province someday. I believe that I have something to offer to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. I’m passionate about this place, I always have been and I'm not discouraged by people telling me that I’m too young or it’s too soon,” he said. “When I ran for city council in Mount Pearl in 1997 — which is now 16 1/2 years ago — I was 19 years old, and most people in my life said, ‘You’re too young. It’s too soon.’”
At the same time, Kent said he knows he’s relatively early in his political career — he’s younger than any of the other serious contenders — and maybe now isn’t the right time.
“Ultimately, I want to do what’s best for the party and what’s best for the province,” he said. “In some ways, I feel I have the luxury of time, in the sense that I hope that I’m in the early stages of my career.”
Senator Fabian Manning and west coast businessman Frank Coleman are also said to be seriously mulling over a leadership bid.
But on Monday, King became the third high-profile cabinet minister to announce he won’t run.
“After careful consideration and discussions with my family and friends, I have decided not to seek the PC party leadership,” he posted on Twitter. “I want to thank all those who reached out to offer me encouragement and support during this process. It was sincerely appreciated.”
Other cabinet leadership contenders Keith Hutchings and Paul Davis have also said they won’t seek the leadership.
At this point, the only two members of the Tory House of Assembly caucus who are said to be thinking about a run are Kent and Natural Resources Minister Derrick Dalley.
As of deadline, Dalley did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
Kent said the sense he gets from party members is that people want a diverse field of candidates for the race, so the party can have a really lively discussion about what it stands for and what its principles are.
“I think it’s healthy that there’s talks of multiple candidates still to come. I hope that’s the case. I hope we have strong internal and external candidates at the end of the day,” he said.
West coast businessman Bill Barry is the only candidate who has formally said he’s running for the PC party leadership