Former Higgs cabinet minister endorses Liberal candidate to take his seat

Outgoing Progressive Conservative MLA Gary Crossman, middle, has endorsed Liberal candidate John Herron, right, to take his seat in the legislature for Hampton-Fundy-St. Martins.  (Facebook - image credit)
Outgoing Progressive Conservative MLA Gary Crossman, middle, has endorsed Liberal candidate John Herron, right, to take his seat in the legislature for Hampton-Fundy-St. Martins. (Facebook - image credit)

An outgoing cabinet minister and MLA representing a Progressive Conservative stronghold has endorsed a Liberal candidate to replace him in the next provincial election.

Gary Crossman, who resigned in April ahead of a planned retirement from provincial politics this fall, issued his endorsement of former Progressive Conservative MP John Herron on Thursday evening.

That endorsement comes despite Herron running under the Liberal banner.

"I have always supported the person who I feel best represents our riding. With his wealth of professional experience as a two-term Member of Parliament, lawmaker and his business development, I believe John is the best candidate to represent our riding over the next four years," Crossman said in a Facebook post.

Newly acclaimed Liberal candidate John Herron is looking to bring dissatisfied long-time Progressive Conservatives on board.
Newly acclaimed Liberal candidate John Herron is looking to bring dissatisfied long-time Progressive Conservatives on board.

Liberal candidate John Herron said earlier this year he wants to bring dissatisfied long-time Progressive Conservatives on board. (Sam Farley/CBC News)

"I will be voting for John Herron in the election this fall and encourage others to do the same."

Herron, who has been vocal about his aim to bring centrist Tories on board, said the endorsement means a lot for his campaign.

"I think it's a very palpable illustration about how broad, albeit unlikely, our coalition actually is," he said in an interview.

"It's indicative of the level of support that we're receiving.... We haven't won this riding in nearly 30 years, but it would take a … broad-centrist coalition in order to do so. And we've essentially built that."

Fenwick is practicing medicine in Hampton, only a short trip from where he grew up, in Quispamsis, and where he went to medical school, in Saint John.
Fenwick is practicing medicine in Hampton, only a short trip from where he grew up, in Quispamsis, and where he went to medical school, in Saint John.

Hampton, part of the newly named Hampton-Fundy-St. Martins riding, has been a Progressive Conservative stronghold for decades. (Roger Cosman/CBC)

Faytene Grasseschi, the Progressive Conservative candidate for the riding, said in a statement that it's "unfortunate" to see Crossman align himself with Herron and New Brunswick Liberal Leader Susan Holt.

"I am disappointed that Mr. Crossman would not accept any of my invitations to meet with him since I announced I would be seeking the nomination," Grasseschi said on Saturday.

"I know his feelings were hurt because his chosen successor didn't win the nomination, and because I was working so hard in the riding, but I remain open to meeting with him in the future. For now, I will be focusing on the people by connecting with voters in the riding."

Higgs said he was happy to see people signing up for the first time because of Grasseschi.
Higgs said he was happy to see people signing up for the first time because of Grasseschi.

Progressive Conservative candidate Faytene Grasseschi called Crossman's endorsement of a Liberal "unfortunate." (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

Grasseschi, a long-time Christian conservative activist, has drawn criticism from another contender in the riding, Green party candidate Laura Myers, for statements about same-sex marriage in her 2009 book Marked.

Before Grasseschi was named to the Progressive Conservative candidacy, Crossman had expressed support instead for Jeremy Salgado, Hampton's deputy mayor.

The provincial Progressive Conservatives took note of Crossman's endorsement, and posted an advertisement shortly after to criticize him for taking "a vacation with his pension" and calling the former minister a "sore loser."

Crossman did not return a request for comment on the weekend.

Herron called the ad "ill-mannered," and a sign that the Progressive Conservatives are worried about the Liberals taking the riding.