Jamie Smith, tbnewswatch.com
Bill Mauro hugs a supporter after winning Thunder Bay-Atikokan.
THUNDER BAY -- Bill Mauro says his campaign is proof that nice guys can still finish first.
Nearly doubling the votes of his next opponent, NDP candidate Mary Kozorys, the Liberal incumbent is heading back to Queen's Park as MPP for Thunder Bay-Atikokan.
"I think that the night's result is absolutely a validation that good people and good teams, good groups can still finish first," he told a somewhat rowdy group of around 60 supporters at the Davinci Centre Thursday night after being declared.
The landslide victory is a significant improvement over Mauro’s previous two election victories. In 2011 only 500 votes separated him from his NDP rival Kozorys.
Meanwhile, in 2007 only 50 votes came between him and then NDP candidates John Rafferty.
Mauro’s 2014 election victory more closely resembles his 2003 showing, which saw him win a landslide victory over Rafferty.
While some predicted a tight race, Mauro (15,177) won more votes than Kozorys (8,072) and third-place Progressive Conservative candidate Harold Wilson (3,776) combined.
Mauro said he couldn't explain the vote margin this time around except that maybe the voters are starting to understand him better.
"I've told people all along I'd rather be respected than liked in this work and sometimes I think it takes awhile for people to figure you out," he said. "You know, I'm not always telling people what they want to hear I'm just simply focused on results for the riding."
Mauro campaigned hard on his track record as MPP over the past decade saying that the Liberals, with long-time MPP Michael Gravelle in Thunder Bay-Superior North, have made the region better.
"I'm not an ideologue, I'm a pragmatist. We're helping, we're helping everyone in this town and it feels good."
As for his opponents, Mauro only said that he might have some words for one candidate in particular over the coming weeks. During his otherwise upbeat speech where he thanked supporters his campaign team and long-time constituency staff, Mauro told the room that lines had been crossed during the campaign.
No matter how desperate a campaign is, people shouldn't mess with another candidate's family name.
"Some of what was done would have made Machiavelli blush," he said.
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing before the election was called, Mauro said he's hoping to get back into cabinet no matter where Premier Kathleen Wynne decides he fits best.
Kozorys said right from the beginning of the campaign she knew voter turnout was going to be an issue.
“People said they were simply disenchanted and disenfranchised with Ontario politics and they weren’t going out to vote,” she said. “I think this has really affected us this evening. People that had even been hard-core supporters said they weren’t going out to vote.”
The Liberals spent much of the final days of the campaign attempting to convince voters that a vote for the NDP was a vote for the PCs, an approach that Kozorys said took a toll on her party’s numbers.
Meanwhile, Wilson said he was not expecting to see the Liberal forming a majority government.
He believes the local results were largely dictated by the party campaigns on a provincial level, but that he is hopeful there will be strong representation for the region.
“The voters are very forgiving…and that does surprise me,” Wilson said. “We’ll just have to make sure Northwestern Ontario does have a voice. I think that’s the thing we’ve lacked and I’d like to see going forward.”
Wilson admitted he was “disappointed” by the decision of PC Leader Tim Hudak to not visit Northern ridings but said he doesn’t believe it impacted the results.
Taking the nomination for the PCs was a difficult task in a riding that, in recent history, has been pretty left leaning.
He had no false impressions about the challenges that would be encountered.
“Everybody knew going in that it was going to be a very difficult role,” Wilson said.
Green Party candidate John Northey took fourth with 964 votes. Libertarian Joe Talarico took 546 votes while the Northern Ontario Heritage Party's Ed Deibel had 131.
-- with files from Matt Vis