SASKATOON — The candidate who beat NDP Leader Cam Broten in the Saskatchewan election this week is a 35-year truck driver who lives in a village about half an hour from the Saskatoon constituency where he now holds a seat.
David Buckingham says he quit his job as mayor of Borden a year ago to focus full time on running for a spot in the legislature.
He credits his win to old-fashioned, shoe-leather politics — months of knocking on doors and talking to people. And, he concedes, Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall's popularity helped out.
"Hard work really does pay off sometimes and I think in this case a lot of hard work on that doorstep was what helped me," Buckingham said a few days after Monday's vote.
"Obviously running under Premier Brad Wall's name and the Saskatchewan Party, which are very popular, had a huge impact — but hard work pays off, too."
Buckingham said he first had designs on running for provincial office in 2013 when his community faced devastating flooding.
Borden is home to about 250 people. It's not far from the banks of the North Saskatchewan River, about 50 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon on the Yellowhead Highway. Buckingham said he spent a lot of time dealing with the provincial government during the floods.
"I got to know a lot of the MLAs and really enjoyed it."
Borden is in the middle of the rural constituency of Biggar-Sask Valley, where longtime Saskatchewan Party member of the legislature Randy Weekes was running again — and won.
Saskatoon Westview was created when the constituency map was redrawn ahead of the election. Broten's old riding of Saskatoon Massey Place was absorbed. Buckingham said he didn't know he'd be running against the NDP leader when he sought the nomination for the Saskatchewan Party and won.
He spent the months leading up to the vote hauling cars around Saskatchewan during the day and knocking on doors at night.
He tried to get to 100 houses each day. He quit driving in early February and started campaigning full time.
"We just wanted to stay under the radar and stay on the doorstep," he said. "The last few months, on the doorstep, I definitely thought I could win, but what it comes down to is, will the people go out to vote?"
Buckingham held the lead for most of the night as results came in, but it was tight. Pundits scrambled to find information on the man who might topple the NDP leader. He won by about 200 votes.
The Saskatchewan Party took 51 of 61 seats. The NDP took the other 10. Broten issued a statement this week saying he is taking time with friends and family to consider his future.
Buckingham and his wife now need to decide if they will move to be closer to the people he represents.
There are family considerations. His mother-in-law is in a care home in Borden and his father-in-law lives by himself in the village.
"It's been such a whirlwind since we won that we haven't really had any time to discuss it. I guess the No. 1 thing in my mind is I want to ensure that I represent the constituents of Saskatoon Westview.
"That's what I said I would do and I am going to make sure I do that."
— By Tim Cook in Edmonton.
The Canadian Press
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