Pupatello, Wynne lead delegate votes for Ontario Liberal leadership convention
Ontario Liberal leadership candidates answer questions at a public debate in Toronto, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013.
The Canadian Press
Published Sunday, January 13, 2013 11:04PM EST
TORONTO -- The two women in the race to replace Dalton McGuinty as Ontario premier and Liberal leader battled for the lead in delegate support late Sunday as results started coming in from weekend voting across the province.
Windsor's Sandra Pupatello, who quit politics in 2011, maintained the lead she had after Saturday's first round of voting as early, unofficial results gave her a two-day total of 420 delegates.
Former education minister Kathleen Wynne remained a close second with 359 delegates committed to her for the first ballot at the leadership convention in Toronto Jan. 25-27.
The Toronto-based Wynne had been expected to close the gap with Pupatello during Sunday's voting, which took place in the city as well as the south-west and south-central regions of the province.
Former MP Gerard Kennedy, who lost the 1996 leadership race to McGuinty and also lost a 2006 bid for the federal Liberal leadership, was third in the weekend voting with 217 committed delegates.
Charles Sousa and Harinder Takhar battled for fourth and fifth spot, with Eric Hoskins remaining in last place throughout the weekend, which saw Liberals across the province elect 16 delegates from each riding.
The results are the first real confirmation that Pupatello and Wynne are the front-runners in the leadership race, with two weeks to go before the convention.
There were also 49 delegates elected as independents, many of whom had been supporting former Winnipeg mayor Glen Murray until he dropped out of the race last Thursday to support Wynne.
About 44,000 Liberals, many of whom signed up after McGuinty announced his resignation in mid-October, were eligible to vote for a total of more than 1,700 delegates.
The delegates will be joined by another 600 former MPPs, MPs, party executives and other "ex-officio" Liberals eligible to vote for the new leader, who will automatically become Ontario's next premier.
As with the delegate selection results, Pupatello has the most high-profile endorsements and support among her former Liberal caucus and cabinet colleagues, followed by Wynne.