Sources say Doug Ford has won Ontario PC leadership, but official announcement still delayed

Doug Ford, the Toronto businessman and former city councillor, appears to have won the Ontario Progressive leadership, but rival has asked for a recount, sources with her said late Saturday afternoon.

The outcome of the party’s wild and fractious leadership race was to be announced at 3 p.m., but more than two-and-a-half hours later, nothing had been announced officially and the campaigns remained sequestered behind closed doors.

The first ballot showed lawyer Caroline Mulroney in fourth place, surpassed unexpectedly by social conservative Tanya Granic Allen, who was a strong third, two sources in campaign said.

With most of Mulroney’s support expected to go to Elliott and Granic Allen’s to Ford, the math showed that Ford — pending the results of the recount — has won, said John Capobianco, an advisor to Elliott.

“It seems like he’s got it,” the veteran political organizer said of Ford. “A lot of (Elliott’s) supporters , and I , that this was her time. So to have lost for a third time, and this closely, is going to hurt.”

The contest began when former leader Patrick Brown resigned in late January amid sexual-misconduct allegations, was rocked by his brief foray into the race, and ended with a court challenge of the voting process.

It was also marked by an electronic balloting system full of snafus, with many Tories left unable to participate in the election. Still, a record number – some 64,000 – did manage to vote.

As Tories gathered at a hotel in the Toronto-area suburb of Markham, the election seemed to have boiled down to a face-off between two of the four contenders.

Christine Elliott attends the Ontario Progressive Conservative Leadership announcement in Markham, Ont. on Saturday, March 10, 2018.

Going into Saturday, Elliott, a former of the legislature who tried twice before to win the leadership, had appeared to be in a neck-and-neck race with Ford, a businessman and one-time Toronto city councillor.

Doug Ford.

Elliott was the establishment candidate favoured by the largest number of elected PC politicians, Ford the blunt-speaking populist who repeatedly condemned “elites” in his party and elsewhere.

Caroline Mulroney and Tanya Granic Allen.

Also running were Caroline Mulroney, a lawyer and daughter of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, and Tanya Granic Allen, a self-desribed advocate for social conservatives within the party.

Brown’s resignation over charges he false and slanderous has opened deep divisions in the party, widened when he waged an aggressive campaign to clear his name, then enter the contest to fill his old job.

He quit after a little more than a week, citing in part the harassment he and his family and friends had faced.

As the campaign wound down, Ford led a charge to have , citing the fact that, in his view, “thousands” of Conservatives had failed to receive the secret code in the mail needed to register for the election, and vote.

When the party refused to delay the process, he called the election corrupt, unfair and biased toward Elliott.

One member made a last-minute request for a court injunction to have the voting extended by a week. But late Friday night, Justice Todd Archibald rejected the application, saying a delay would do much more damage to the party as a whole than good.

Interim leader Vic Fedeli urged the party Saturday to put aside their differences and focus on fighting the general election, which must be held by June 7 and which polls suggest is their’s to win.

“Do not let the small differences … of a leadership campaign distract us from our shared purpose,” he implored the audience. “Stay united and stay strong, because united is not just something that happens to you, it’s something you do.”

Jason , leader of the United Conservative Party of Alberta, also made reference to the troubles, encouraging his Ontario counterparts to put the drama behind them.

“You’ve been through a tough couple of months, perhaps the toughest in the history of the Progressive Conservative party of Ontario,” he said.

But the party will emerge stronger, and end up victorious on June 7, said Kenney.

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