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Liberal leadership: Watch live video coverage now

11/17/2013 08:46 EST | Updated 01/25/2014 04:01 EST
Five candidates are competing today for the leadership of Newfoundland and Labrador's Liberal party. 

The party said 23,873 people cast votes in the race, with 62.8 per cent of eligible voters casting ballots and exceeding party expectation.

Voting started by phone and online on Nov. 8 and concluded at noon on Sunday. 

Former interim leader Dwight Ball is seeking the job permanently, and is competing against business owners Cathy Bennett and Paul Antle, MHA Jim Bennett and former MHA Danny Dumaresque. 

Ball, who was interim leader from January 2012 through July 2013, said he took that role seriously, and that he began working last year on a party rebuilding process that he would like to continue. 

"I can assure you that the Liberal party will be more united than ever," said Ball. 

Dumaresque said he wasn't expecting the amount of spending some of the other candidates put into their campaigns.

"I was a little surprised that there was as much spending as there was, but I was thankful of the mainstream media that I was able to get," said Dumaresque, adding he ran a "frugal" campaign himself. 

"I think we're going to certainly be happy with where we are. I started this five months ago knowing full well it was going to be an uphill battle," he added.

Antle, one of the perceived front-runners for the leadership, said he's confident that he will be pulling in big numbers once the ballots start coming in.

"Overall, I think coming into today we did have a surge in the last three or four days," Antle said.

"I think we're going to be sitting pretty well with the results at the end of the first ballot."

Antle said his main competition is with Cathy Bennett and Ball, and that the three of them will likely be within 100 points of each other, but that he expects to pull strong numbers in the end.

Cathy Bennett, a newcomer to politics, said the obvious best-case scenario is winning in a first-ballot round, but is confident that if that doesn't happen her support base is large enough to make her a main contender in the second ballot.

"This is really about how you are able to connect with a large number of people, and how broad your campaign was," she said.

"Our numbers are indicating that we'll have really strong numbers on a first ballot, if it goes to a second."

Bennett said that regardless of the outcome in the leadership race, all five candidates will show a united front for the Liberal party in the future.

Jim Bennett said the momentum behind the Liberal party as a whole is huge, and he's gained a lot of support across the province during his campaign.

"Regardless of the outcome [of the leadership race], it's been a big win for the party, and I think a big win overall," he said.

"I'm comfortable with the numbers that we have put together, but the range is too wide even for me to put together, so it's anybody's game at this point," he said.

CBC is carrying a live video feed from the floor of the Delta Hotel & Convention Centre in downtown St. John's. 

The On Point online video special is anchored by David Cochrane. Reporters Peter Cowan and Adam Walsh are on the floor. 

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