Steven Puhallo was waiting in the wings for MLA Terry Lake’s announcement that he won’t be seeking re-election when Kamloops-North Thompson voters go to the polls next spring.
Lake’s decision and Puhallo’s intention to seek the Liberal nomination were no of no surprise to anyone.
The longtime Liberal supporter and manager of the North Shore Business Improvement Association made his candidacy official Friday, surrounded by supporters who squeezed into Wilson House, the NSBIA offices.
“I truly believe I’m the best person to represent Kamloops-North Thompson,” Puhallo said. “I grew up on the banks of the North Thompson. I understand folks who live in the North Thompson because I am one of them.”
Former Liberal MLAs Claude Richmond and Kevin Krueger, along with Nelly Dever, ex-City councillor, were at his side lending support.
“This group came together over the last 25 hours,” Puhallo said. “I’m so proud of it. We’re going to have a great campaign.”
The business association manager may have a high-profile challenger in Mayor Peter Milobar, who is expected to decide within a week whether he will seek the Liberal nomination. Puhallo hopes a nomination vote can be held and the candidate confirmed in time for the party's convention on Nov. 4.
A self-described fiscal Conservative, Puhallo acknowledged that he faces a considerable challenge in Kamloops-North Thompson, where Lake narrowly won a hard-fought battle against the NDP's Doug Brown in 2009. In 2013, Lake outpaced New Democrat Kathy Kendall by 13 percent of the vote.
Up and down the valley, support is fairly evenly divided between the NDP and the Liberals, Puhallo suggested.
"Terry's made great inroads with the North Shore. I plan to continue that work. That's really knocking on doors, talking to people and doing a lot of listening. My father always said you have two ears and one mouth for a reason.
"When there's a strong MLA, who understands not just the issues but the people behind them, that's where your advantage comes in," he said. "If 2013 taught us anything, it's that the only poll that counts is on election day."
Puhallo had been contemplating the jump into politics for some time. He said that when Lake confirmed his plans Thursday, he spoke with his wife about running.
"She said if you don't do this you're going to regret it for the rest of your life. She was right, so I kind of pulled myself up by my bootstraps and sent out emails last night. We were working pretty late to get everything together."