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Anne McLellan's nephew, goddaughter and countless other Canadians went to bed after the 2000 election thinking the cabinet minister had been defeated by her Alliance challenger. They, along with several journalists, were mistaken.

But last night, as vote results whipsawed between the Deputy Prime Minister and Conservative Laurie Hawn, Ms. McLellan's record of tightly fought electoral battles was again top of mind.

"Close races seem to be my destiny," she said with a smile.

Indeed, in her first election in 1993, Ms. McLellan won by just one ballot, earning the nickname Landslide Annie; it was a margin that increased to 11 after a recount. In 1997, she had a 1,411-vote lead, and in 2000 it slipped to 733 votes.

Last night, as two children posted polls that largely showed Ms. McLellan with a slim lead, supporters congratulated her with hugs and handshakes. But Ms. McLellan cautioned them not to take anything for granted.

"We're not there yet. It's not over," she told one man.

Her re-election campaign in Edmonton Centre was supported by several prominent Conservatives and New Democrats, including former Tory prime minister Joe Clark, who argued she is too important an MP for Edmonton and Alberta to lose.

Ms. McLellan said her record of razor-thin margins is in part a reflection of the challenges the Liberals face in Alberta, where many still remember Pierre Trudeau's national energy program with deep disdain.

"It's never been easy for federal Liberals in this province," she said. " . . . There's a history associated with that and I think that we are overcoming that."

Ms. McLellan's supporters, including several prominent city politicians, gathered at a community hall just north of the city's downtown, where they huddled around televisions and cheered as the Liberals surged ahead. Ms. McLellan, who is the Liberals' chief Alberta representative, is joined in caucus by David Kilgour, the party's only other MP in the province, who also faced a tough battle but was declared elected.

The scene was much the same at Mr. Hawn's campaign office, where spokesman William McBeath said the crowd was confident later polls would put him in the lead. Mr. Hawn, a former fighter pilot, was seen as a strong and credible challenger to Ms. McLellan and carried the weight of the party's long-held dream to defeat her.

The New Democratic Party was represented by Meghan McMaster, who was expected to finish well behind.