Gallant being challenged for Conservative nomination
MP Cheryl Gallant has defeated candidates from all opposing parties since winning the riding of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke in 2000. Now she’ll have to battle one of her own.
Michael Coates, 61, a longtime Conservative backroom operative, has declared his intention to challenge Gallant, 57, for the Conservative nomination in the next general election, scheduled for 2019.
Coates said he submitted his nomination papers by the Dec. 15 deadline, the first step in a process that should result in a runoff with Gallant, possibly in the spring of 2018.
“It’s kind of been a lifelong ambition of mine,” Coates said of his desire to seek public office.
“I’ve always had great respect for people who put their name on a ballot. This is my opportunity to bring something to a community that I think it badly needs. And that is jobs and someone who is interested in economic development and investment.”
Coates recently retired as a senior executive at Hill+Knowlton Strategies and he and his wife Maureen have lived on Centennial Lake, outside Calabogie, for 12 years. He’s been involved with a group that brought improved cellular coverage to the Eganville area, an example of how better online communication can help the county’s economic infrastructure.
The Nova Scotia native also sees huge potential growth with both the nuclear and defence industries, as the riding is home to CFB Petawawa and the Chalk River nuclear facility.
He plans to run a positive campaign and not engage in name-calling or criticism of Gallant, famous for a series of verbal gaffes, social conservative views and climate change suspicions, not to mention an avoidance of the mainstream media.
Coates, who has three grown children, has been a lifelong Conservative — “I was born in blue diapers” — and has worked with the likes of Perrin Beatty, Lowell Murray and Stephen Harper. He was also chairman of the aborted campaign to elect television personality and businessman Kevin O’Leary as leader of the Conservatives.
He has spoken to Gallant about the challenge. “She was disappointed,” was all he would say. It will be the first time in 18 years she has faced an opponent for the Conservative flag.
Coates has begun selling memberships that will allow supporters to vote in a runoff. As an incumbent, he knows she is a formidable opponent.
She’s been elected six times in the riding, narrowly defeating incumbent Liberal Hec Clouthier in 2000 when she ran for the Canadian Alliance. None of the other five elections were very close, even winning during the Liberal surge of 2015 by about 7,500 votes.
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