Liberal candidate in CKL bows out of provincial election race

Audrey Festeryga, Liberal candidate in Chatham-Kent-Leamington. Photo courtesy Audrey Festeryga 4 Essex/Facebook.

The Liberal candidate in Chatham-Kent-Leamington (CKL) has withdrawn from next week’s provincial election.

Audrey Festeryga issued a statement on Thursday saying she has withdrawn from the June 2, 2022 ballot to “protect my family and my name.”

The withdrawl comes after the Ontario NDP alleged that signatures on her nominations papers were fraudulent and were actually the signatures of people who had signed the nomination papers for former CKL Liberal candidate Alec Mazurek, who was turfed by the party after the discovery of eight year old social media posts in which he used gay slurs. On Wednesday, the Ontario New Democratic Party reported more signature fraud allegations against Festeryga saying four people in total have come forward to report they did not sign Festeryga’s nomination papers.

Despite this, Festeryga blames the Ontario New Democrats (NDP) for pushing her to this decision.

“Due to the NDP’s relentless personal attacks, I have made the difficult decision to withdraw as the Liberal candidate for Chatham-Kent-Leamington. This decision was also made based on my personal sense of morals and ethics,” said Festeryga. “I have filed the proper paperwork with Election Ontario to execute this withdrawal. It’s sad to see what’s become of the NDP under Andrea Horwath.”

Her name no longer appears on the Elections Ontario candidate’s list.

Festeryga said she stepped forward to become the Liberal candidate in Chatham-Kent Leamington a few weeks ago because she believed in these communities, and believed more women need to put their names on ballots.

Festeryga has run as a Liberal candidate in the area in three Federal Elections and said she has had no trouble running up until now.

“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,” said Festeryga. “I think this behaviour by the NDP is the worst kind of politics, and frankly, attacks like those launched by men like Taras Natyshak are exactly the reason why more women choose not to run for elected office. I’m sad Chatham-Kent Leamington won’t be able to vote Liberal this time around.”

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said it’s Steven Del Duca’s fault for putting Festeryga in a tough position, adding the alleged elections fraud and the last-minute improper registration of his candidate are on him and his party.

“When people decide to cheat everyone loses and he needs to take some responsibility for his actions. Election fraud is election fraud and you don’t just point fingers at other people. You stand up and admit you made a mistake,” said Horwath.

Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said Festeryga has integrity and the relentless NDP attacks on her were not proper and crossed the line.

“I think Andrea Horwath has a lot to answer for as to how she has handled this situation. Sending out a bunch of people from her party to talk about Audrey Festeryga and to undercut her at every step along the way is deeply discouraging,” said Del Duca.