Although he wasn’t his first choice to run in Fraser-Nicola, BC NDP leader John Horgan gave a vote of confidence to seasoned candidate Harry Lali after he won the party’s nomination.

“Harry Lali has a long record of standing up for people and communities in B.C.’s Interior. It’s time for a government that works for everyone all across B.C.,” stated Horgan in a press release issued after the vote.

Lali, a former cabinet minister who was first elected to the legislative assembly in 1991, claimed the nomination over Lower Nicola Indian Band Chief Aaron Sam.

Earlier in the nomination process, Horgan asked Lali to step aside from running for the nomination and back Sam instead.

Lali said Horgan congratulated him on winning the nomination when they met up Monday (March 20) in Surrey for the first time since the local membership picked him to run as their candidate in the upcoming provincial election.

The two met in Surrey during the opening of another candidate’s campaign office.

Lali told the Herald the meeting was a positive one.

“He’s excited about the campaign coming up, as am I,” said Lali, adding that there was no ill will between them despite Horgan’s preference for Sam.

“I think there was a little bit if a misunderstanding in the public,” said Lali. “John asked me as a friend, not as a political enemy or anything like that, to see if he could get his friend to make room for an Aboriginal candidate.”

Lali said he told Horgan he felt he had more to offer than Sam, and Horgan agreed.

“We had a nomination race, and John Horgan and his office stayed out of it, because they never get involved in contested nominations. Once it’s over you go back to supporting whoever won,” said Lali.

Lali said Horgan’s parting words to him when they met on Monday were “go win Fraser-Nicola again.”

“And that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” Lali said.

With Lali set as the BC NDP nominee, the Fraser-Nicola riding now has three confirmed candidates: Jackie Tegart (Liberal), Harry Lali (NDP) and Arthur Green (BC Green Party).

In the 2013 provincial election, then-incumbent Lali was unseated by Liberal candidate Jackie Tegart by a difference of just over 600 votes — making the Fraser-Nicola one of the more hotly contested ridings of the provincial election that year.

Asked if he had learned anything in the last four years that would help him avoid a repeat of 2013, Lali said he would have to take the fight to the Liberals.

“I just have to continue to do what I did when I won the four elections,” said Lali. “I think the last time around, the NDP went into the election 20 points up, people thought I was a shoe-in and at least 1,500 of my voters didn’t come out to vote.”

And despite the nomination battle, Sam said he too would be throwing his support behind Lali’s campaign.

“It’s important that we stick together and keep focused on beating the Liberals in May,” said Sam.

The NDP has not released the number of votes each candidate received in last weekend’s nomination meeting.

There are more than 400 NDP members in Fraser-Nicola.