Mike Farnworth says he has plenty of time to catch up on John Horgan, his caucus colleague rival for the leadership of the B.C. NDP who has the support of almost half the 34-member caucus.
The leadership vote is months away, with a victor to be named Sept. 28.
“That’s a very long time. You want to pace yourself. You want to make sure you don’t do everything at once.”
Earlier this month, Mr. Farnworth announced that he would seek to succeed Adrian Dix as party leader. On Saturday, the veteran MLA held a kickoff rally attended by about 60 people in this Lower Mainland community.
MLA Lana Popham of Saanich South was on hand to endorse Mr. Farnworth, a former cabinet minister, though Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson has also offered support. Mr. Farnworth said Norm MacDonald of Columbia River-Revelstoke is on side, as well.
“Campaigns are long. It’s about talking to each and every voter. It’s not about how many MLAs you have endorsing you or, in fact, who the endorsers are,” Mr. Farnworth told reporters after his speech at the community centre, where he launched a 2011 bid to lead the party.
That effort ended with a second-place finish behind Mr. Dix, who is stepping down after the party picks a new leader. Mr. Horgan, the energy critic, placed third in 2011.
Mr. Horgan has the support of 15 caucus members, including former leader Carole James.
Mr. Farnworth, who said the race hinges on making the case to about 20,000 voting members, nonetheless added that he would be naming more endorsements soon.
Meanwhile, he said he supported some of the campaign tactics that cost the NDP an expected win in the 2013 election, but will be tougher if New Democrats elect him leader.
Despite leads of up to 20 per cent in the polls, the NDP fell behind the Liberals, who managed to win a fourth-straight majority term last May with a campaign focused on the economy and seasoned with blunt attacks on Mr. Dix, who chose not to respond due to a pledge to eschew negative politics.
Still, Mr. Farnworth has already said he opposed the party’s mid-campaign switch from support for an expansion of a Kinder Morgan pipeline between Alberta and the Lower Mainland.
Both Mr. Farnworth and Mr. Horgan are casting themselves as economic pragmatists able to balance a commitment to the environment with a commitment to responsible resource development. And Mr. Farnworth said that as leader, he and his party would woo voter support with a more coherent economic message than in 2013.
“People have to have confidence in our economic vision and our economic message. It has to resonate with people. It didn’t do that this time,” he said.
Turning away from Mr. Dix’s aversion to negative campaigning, Mr. Farnworth promised to tie the Liberals to their record in government. “We’re not going to fight an election with one hand tied behind our back.”