Ontario Liberal candidate in Chatham-Kent-Leamington withdraws from provincial election

Audrey Festeryga. (Source Audrey Festeryga/Facebook)

The Ontario Liberals have lost another candidate with one week to go until voting day.

Leader Steven Del Duca says Audrey Festeryga has withdrawn her candidacy in Chatham-Kent-Leamington and will no longer appear on the ballot for the Liberals.

The development means there are now three ridings in which the Liberals aren't running a candidate for the June 2 provincial election.

Festeryga had stepped in after the party dropped a previous candidate in the riding who had used a homophobic slur on social media when he was a tween.

But Festeryga's candidacy was also called into question by the New Democrats, who have alleged that she was fraudulently registered with signatures gathered in support of the dropped candidate.

Del Duca refused to comment on the validity of the fraud accusations but instead accused the NDP of "attacking'' Festeryga, which he says drove her to withdraw from the race.

Festeryga released a full statement on the decision:

“It’s sad to see what’s become of the NDP under Andrea Horwath.

Two weeks ago, I stepped forward to become the Liberal candidate in Chatham-Kent Leamington because I believe in these communities, and I believe more women need to put their names on ballots. I, like many of you, was also outraged at the tactics of the local NDP in digging up and disseminating social media posts made by the previous candidate when he was a child.

I have been a Liberal candidate in this area in three Federal Elections. In this provincial election, Elections Ontario has verified my candidacy. No other candidates have raised any concerns about my nomination. The desperate actions of the NDP and the McGregor campaign did not arise from any pure-hearted motivation, but rather a continued attempt to stop the voters from casting a ballot for the Liberals.

But I simply cannot allow any further mudslinging to deflect from the issues of importance: affordability, safety & security, and the environment.

Due to the NDP’s relentless personal attacks, I have made the difficult decision to withdraw as the Liberal candidate for Chatham-Kent-Leamington, in order to protect my family and my name. This decision was also made based on my personal sense of morals and ethics.

I have filed the proper paperwork with Election Ontario to execute this withdrawal.

I think this behaviour by the NDP is the worst kind of politics, and frankly, attacks like the those launched by men like Taras Natyshak are exactly the reason why more women choose not to run for elected office.

I encourage everyone to get out and vote for the candidate of your choice on June 2nd. I’m sad Chatham-Kent Leamington won’t be able to vote Liberal this time around.”