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Remaining candidates in Kitchener-Conestoga don't think they're at an advantage to win the riding

File photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Candidates vying for the Kitchener-Conestoga seat at Queen’s Park say they were caught off-guard by the allegations brought forward by a former intern against Michael Harris.

But at least two of Harris’ challengers say they don’t think the scandal puts them at an advantage.

Joe Gowing is the Liberal candidate, and says he always thought his party had a fair chance at beating the PCs in this provincial election, even before the Harris complaint came to light.

“Coming into this regardless of what happened with Harris, it was going to be a really close race between us and the Conservatives in this riding.”

Green Party candidate Bob Jonkman says he believes it’ll be a fair fight between all the parties.

“This is an issue that affects all parties, and so I don’t think it’s going to affect any one party more than any other, ” says Jonkman. “Really any member of any other party could be in the same situation as well.”

Harris has been the MPP for Kitchener-Conestoga since 2011, but prior to that, the riding was held by the Liberals. Gowing doesn’t think Harris being removed from the Tory caucus will impact his party’s bid to turn the riding red again.

But it could be seen as a blessing in disguise, now that the candidates no longer face the uphill battle of trying to unseat a two-time incumbent. Both Gowing and Jonkman say they’ve considered how Harris’ departure bodes for their own chances at winning the riding.

“I talked to my campaign team, and honestly it was a shock that it happened,” says Gowing, “but our strategy is going to stay the same.”

“I think that not having an experienced candidate on the slate will actually equalize things much more for the remaining candidates,” Jonkman says.

NDP candidate Kelly Dick did not return our messages for comment in time for broadcast. Right now, there is no confirmed candidate seeking to represent the PC’s in Kitchener-Conestoga.