Mike Farnworth quits B.C. leadership race, throws support behind John Horgan

VICTORIA - The leadership race for the British Columbia New Democratic Party appears to have turned into a coronation as Mike Farnworth quit Tuesday to throw his support behind John Horgan.

Farnworth told a news conference that the turn of events wasn't what he had planned when he started the contest.

"Yes, today marks the end of my campaign for B.C. NDP leader," Farnworth said as he was surrounded by New Democrat caucus members.

Farnworth said he and Horgan share a vision to unite the NDP and win the 2017 election.

Horgan, whose leadership campaign started with plenty of caucus support, said New Democrats work best when they're united.

"Mike Farnworth, thank you so much. I couldn't be prouder of him today," said Horgan, the sole New Democrat seeking the party's leadership.

While the NDP's leadership convention has been set for September, Horgan said party officials have told him that if no one else comes forward by the May 1 deadline, he will be affirmed as leader to replace Adrian Dix.

When Farnworth announced his plans to run for party leader at the beginning of March, he said B.C. needs a progressive alternative who can win, and that's what he planned to do.

Farnworth, who came in second to Dix in the 2011 leadership race, was the first to announce that he would run again.

Dix resigned last year, months after leading the party to a surprising election defeat against Christy Clark's Liberals.

Farnworth's decision to quit the race came just days after former NDP premier Mike Harcourt revealed that he didn't renew his membership because the party had made a series of blunders and needed a strong leader to regain his support.

Harcourt supported Farnworth during the 2011 leadership contest but said he hadn't spoken to Farnworth in three years and wouldn't be supporting any candidate in the latest race.

Horgan appeared to be a reluctant candidate to seek the party's top job, announcing in late March that he would run, after saying last year he wanted to leave the leadership race to a younger New Democrat generation.

But as more people opted out, Horgan said many in the younger generation convinced him to run for the party leadership.

Farnworth said last month when he announced his intention to lead the party that he would take a tougher stand against the B.C. Liberals.

"That means fighting a hard, aggressive election campaign that will get our message across,'' he said, referring to a decision by Dix not to run a negative election campaign last year.

The New Democrats went into the May campaign with a 20-point lead in the polls but lost the election to the Liberals.