Langley MLA Mary Polak watches at a local pub as the returns come in on election night.

Langley MLA Mary Polak watches at a local pub as the returns come in on election night.

Mary Polak fends off NDP, Conservative challengers

Langley MLA says she had a hunch the polls were off

Mary Polak couldn’t restrain her glee at the  television image of an obviously uncomfortable pundit who had predicted the demise of the Liberal government.

She made a joke about his eyes going dead, then stepped outside for an interview.

By then, it was clear the party, and Polak, were the winners of an election that was supposed to belong to the opposition New Democrats.

The pub that was hosting her election night get-together had turned into a noisy and sometimes emotional victory party.

A few minutes earlier, one of her campaign workers could be seen in the parking lot talking on his cell phone, obviously in tears.

Polak won Langley with more than half the votes cast, 51.89 per cent.

She collected 12,694 votes, well ahead of second-place Andrew Mercier of the NDP, who had 6,573 votes.

BC Conservative Party leader John Cummins was a distant third with 2,897 votes.

Wally Martin of the Green Party had 2,298 votes.

Polak, a former pollster, said she never bought into the prevailing notion that the Liberals were doomed to defeat.

“I had a gut instinct that there was more to the polls,” Polak said.

“One of the things we’re seeing is that voters are making up their mind much closer to election day. That makes it very difficult for pollsters to predict what’s going to happen.”

She said she did consider the possibility of defeat.

“You always think about the worst case scenario,” Polak said, “at least I do. I think it’s healthy.  “You have to go into an election fighting hard and believing that you have to work for it and you can’t take it for granted.”

Things were considerably quieter at the Mercier campaign office.

As the polls came in, one NDP supporter kept saying, “I don’t believe it,” over and over.

One campaign worker burst into tears.

Mercier emerged from a back room at his campaign office long enough to concede defeat and congratulate Polak for working hard to win.

His campaign manger, Alec Stromdahl, said people at the office were expecting to celebrate a provincial victory if not necessarily a Langley win for the party.

“I think probably everyone was a little shocked,” Stromdahl said.

BC Conservative party leader Cummins said the Liberal win was more about fear of an NDP government than an endorsement of the Liberals.

“It wasn’t Christy Clark, it was running away from the NDP,” Cummins told reporters at his Langley campaign office.

Despite being shut out at the polls, Cummins predicted the Conservatives would be a contender in the next provincial election.

“We will continue to organize and by 2017 we’ll be a much stronger party,” Cummins said.

“This isn’t a one-shot affair.”

Cummins said he intended to continue as leader, at least until the next party convention. A disappointed Martin saw the trend early when he attended the local electoral office to watch the ballot count.

“It doesn’t look good,” he said.

“Too many votes for the other guys.”