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Carole James to run in next B.C. election

Carole James took her seat in the legislature this spring as an NDP MLA without a critic portfolio. She'd been forced to step down as leader of the B.C. New Democratic Party last December after a caucus revolt, and the tributes poured in as though her departure was imminent.

"She was the steady hand we needed, working relentlessly, often in obscurity, to bring the New Democratic Party back to life," said fellow MLA Dawn Black in February. From the opposite side, outgoing premier Gordon Campbell offered thanks, "and congratulations for all you've done."

But the tributes were premature. Ms. James is planning to run again in the next election.

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A bruised ego might have tempted her to throw in the towel. "I was angry," she said in an interview Wednesday, recalling the efforts to force her out after seven years as party leader.

"It's rare you've had a leader stick around when they have gone through what I've gone through. But I think a lot of it does have to do with the reason you got involved in the first place."

Ms. James waited for the initial hurt and anger to subside before deciding her future. For six months she gauged whether she still has the passion for politics.

On Wednesday night, she would be standing at her riding association's annual general meeting to announce she is seeking the nomination to run as the NDP's candidate in Victoria-Beacon Hill again.

"You have to put the ego aside, that's not always easy for a lot of people. I'm fortunate, I don't hang on to things," she said. "I'm not going to live my life bitter, I'm not going to live my life with 'what ifs.' You take the cards you are dealt with and you move on."

Her decision to run again is a significant endorsement for her successor, Adrian Dix. Ms. James also spent the past two months, since Mr. Dix was elected as the new party leader, watching him and talking to him, to determine whether she could serve under his leadership.

"I wanted to make sure there was a place for me, that I could be an active member of the team and that Adrian was going in a direction that I felt was important," she said.

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Mr. Dix was set to attend the meeting in Ms. James's riding on Wednesday night. "It's terrific news," he said. "It just shows the level of Carole's commitment and generosity."

The question of how to unite a caucus bitterly divided over Ms. James's leadership dominated when Mr. Dix won the party leadership in April. Ms. James's willingness to seek re-election may help him move past that issue.

"This is the message we're trying to give, this isn't about who is leader, its about the change we want to bring," Mr. Dix said. He has yet to hear from any MLAs who are not planning to run again, but they will likely have to decide soon - the NDP has already started nominating candidates. The next B.C. election is scheduled for 2013, but Premier Christy Clark has indicated she would like to go to the polls as early as September.

Ms. James credits Ms. Clark for making up her mind to stay in politics. "Christy Clark and her disregard for the seriousness of the issues we brought forward, it was the final push."

She no longer has a big office and a cadre of staff at her beck and call, but she has enjoyed the freedom to write her own statements and questions. During the recent legislative session - her first where she was not party leader - Ms. James spoke about early childhood development, people with disabilities, poverty and brain injury awareness.

She was reluctant to take time in Question Period, however. "I'd been clear with Adrian I feel past leaders shouldn't take up space." Mr. Dix encouraged her to take part, and she eventually did. "I enjoyed it, to my surprise."

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About the Author
B.C. politics reporter

Based in the press gallery of the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, Justine has followed the ups and downs of B.C. premiers since 1988. She has also worked as a business reporter and on Parliament Hill covering national politics. More

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