Kivalliq voters went old school and voted for experience on an election night that saw three of the region’s six incumbents defeated.
Lorne Kusugak avenged his loss in the Rankin Inlet South riding during the past territorial election by defeating incumbent Alex Sammurtok by a count of 309 votes to 136.
In the Rankin Inlet North/Chesterfield Inlet riding, former Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. president Cathy Towtongie (171 votes) held off a determined charge by Cedric Autut (147) to claim the seat, with incumbent Tom Sammurtok collecting 93 votes and Douglas Aggark receiving 58.
Incumbent Simeon Mikkungwak kept his seat in the riding of Baker Lake by collecting 389 votes to Karen Kabloona’s 280, while, in Arviat South, incumbent Joe Savikataaq retained his seat by collecting 280 votes to the 234 garnered by challenger Jason Gibbons.
John Main roared to victory in Arviat North/Whale Cove with a convincing 408-115 vote victory over incumbent George Kuksuk, while incumbent Patterk Netser held off Jack Anawak by a final tally of 318 to 218 votes to retain the Aivilik riding of Naujaat and Coral Harbour.
Kusugak, a veteran of both municipal and territorial elections, said the victory felt a lot better than tying or losing, referring to his byelection loss to Sammurtok after the two candidates tied in the general election four years ago.
He said he started contemplating his return to politics about a year ago, and the encouragement he heard from the community led to him deciding to re-enter the political arena.
“People have been asking me if I’m going to run again for about the past year, and I had to give it some real serious thought,” said Kusugak.
“And, as I thought more and more about it, that seemed to be about the time even more people started telling me that the community had to get me back.
“They told me Rankin Inlet needed a strong voice back and, if I ran again, they would support me.
“So, by this past June, I pretty much had made up my mind that I was running again.”
Kusugak said his defeat four years ago hurt.
He said he had to take a good deal of time after that to contemplate his future.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do, if anything, in terms in politics.
“But, you know, Rankin is my heart.
“I was born and raised here and it just hurts too much to watch my community go silent.
“I wasn’t allowed to give up on my community, and the people of the community showed on election night that they haven’t given up on me either.”
Kusugak said election night 2017 will always be a special memory for him.
He said he enjoyed very much the time he spent with friends, family and community members during the day of the election and following his victory that evening.
“Oh gosh, I must have drank 10 cups of coffee early in the evening,” said Kusugak with a laugh.
“I talked to so many people, and there were lots of great stories remembered.
“After the final vote count came out, both my cellphone and our home phone never stopped ringing for hours, and the door never had time to shut properly from all the friends coming and going.
“It was a memorable evening.”