01/14/2013 08:30 EST | Updated 03/16/2013 05:12 EDT

Pupatello, Wynne Lead Race For Ontario Liberal Leadership

The race to replace outgoing Premier Dalton McGuinty is shaping up to be a two-horse race between Don Valley West MPP Kathleen Wynne and former Windsor West MPP Sandra Pupatello.

Those two Ontario Liberal leadership candidates account for more than 50 per cent of the delegates based on results from weekend voting, with Pupatello appearing to hold a slight lead.

Pupatello took 27 per cent of the delegates in weekend voting with 25 per cent going to Wynne. Former Parkdale-High Park MP Gerrard Kennedy is a distant third at 14 per cent with Mississauga-Erindale MPP Harinder Takhar at 13 per cent and Mississauga South MPP Charles Sousa at 11 per cent.

Eric Hoskins, who represents the Toronto riding of St. Pauls, is well back of the pack with six per cent.

Those voting results represent the majority of the 1,837 delegates who will gather to pick the party's new leader, and the province's next premier, at a leadership convention set for January 25-26 in Toronto.

About 400 ex-officio delegates — made up of party bigwigs current and former MPPs — will form the rest.

There were originally seven leadership candidates, but Glen Murray dropped out of the race last week and threw his support behind Wynne.

To win the leadership, a candidate must receive the votes of 50 per cent plus one of the elected and ex-officio delegates.

Delegates are only committed to vote for their respective candidate on the first ballot. After that, they can shift their support to other candidates.

Candidates in the middle will play key role

Pupatello told CBC News on Monday that a strong showing in the weekend voting is an important first step in determining who will become the party’s next leader.

“When they see a candidate with widespread support, it makes a difference in terms of electability when it comes to a campaign,” she said. Pupatello was quick to note that the three candidates in the middle “could all conspire and have more than us.”

Wynne told CBC News the results mean candidates can expect plenty of politicking as the convention progresses.

“The dynamic on the convention floor is going to be very important," she said. "There isn’t a runaway candidate who’s clearly going to go in and take the convention. There are six of us and there’s going to be lots of movement.”

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