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Conservative leadership hopeful gaining on perceived frontrunners

The CBC in an analysis piece says Conservative leadership candidate Dr. Leslyn Lewis has an outside shot at winning. Lewis is a Toronto lawyer and a political novice. But according to strategists, she could upset

“I think she’s a big factor,” Jenni Byrne, former advisor to prime minister Stephen Harper and founder of Jenni Byrne and Associates, told CBC’s West of Centre podcast. “I think that the surge of Leslyn Lewis has changed the dynamic of this leadership race.”

Lewis has raised $996,000 this quarter, behind O’Toole’s $1.24 million and MacKay’s $1.16 million — but she has attracted more individual donors than the three other candidates. She was backed by 10,000 contributors, compared with 8,900 for O’Toole and 6,800 for MacKay.

“I feel that we have a very strong chance of winning,” Lewis told Power & Politics earlier this week.

Ken Boessenkool, a research fellow at the C.D. Howe Institute and former adviser to Harper, called her a “sophisticated and smart voice” for social conservatives who may be put off by the intense rhetoric of candidate Derek Sloan. He added she may be just as enticing to those who don’t want a long-time politician at the helm.

Dennis Matthews, a strategist with Enterprise Canada and a former adviser to Harper, mused that Lewis might signal a new opportunity for Conservatives who want to reshape party policy. “They (MacKay and O’Toole) are still very much out of the Harper mould of what the party has looked and sounded like for the last 10, 15, almost 20 years now,” he said. “[Voters] may not even agree with her on the social conservative issues but they’re saying ‘hey, you’re something different.'”

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