All hands on deck

“Let them fight. Let them divide. That’s not why I’m running.”

Dennis is at his campaign office, reading yet another news article outlining the differences between the five candidates running for the PC leadership.

Some good. Some bad. (Depending who you ask.)

A few blows have been thrown his way in the past couple weeks, including an email sent to party members – from another candidate’s office – detailing ‘What Dennis Says’ and ‘What Dennis Did.’

And although he might not acknowledge it publicly, those blows land.

It hurts, he says.

“Do you know what it’s like to be judged and picked apart every minute of every day? It’s tough.”

Yet, with only days left for party members to vote for their new leader, Denny remains determined to stick to his strategy of good sportsmanship.

I’m not playing that game, he says.

“That’s the way we’ve been playing it for years. And I really think Islanders are sick of that.”

He’s been saying it since Day 1: he wants to steer politics in a new direction.  And he wants to captain the ship – in some respects, into uncharted territory.

But he knows he needs the support of a good crew. A crew ready to ride the waves of change.

“If the voters aren’t ready for a change, they’re not ready for me,” he says.

“But I think they’re ready.”

He looks across the desk at Adam, his campaign manager, for some reassurance.

Adam, however, shoots back a look that says, “Don’t ask.”

Dennis tells me Adam won’t reveal what the numbers look like so far. How the votes are adding up.

I ask Adam why.

He tells me he doesn’t want Dennis to lose focus.

“I haven’t done anything to change him yet, and don’t want him to change. Not now,” Adam says.

“What he’s been doing is resonating with the people, and I don’t want that to change.”

Denny grins at Adam, like a wife who’s just proved her husband’s sense of direction wrong.

Adam shoots back another look. This one isn’t as familiar (or friendly).

I can tell their relationship has been tested over the past three months. But it’s also apparent their shared value of loyalty has only strengthened over that time.

“Go write your speech,” Adam says, shooing Dennis away like a pesky kid at his feet. Saturday’s convention is only a few days away. He knows it’s crunch time.

By his own admission, Adam was a bit reluctant to adopt Dennis’s campaign approach in the beginning.

But not now.

Dennis has connected with Islanders. And as his man Friday (plus every other day of the week), Adam has witnessed it firsthand.

“Voting is a feeling,” Dennis says, still in Adam’s space. “You vote with your feelings – be it hope, respect, likeability, or what have you.”

People are guided by that, by their feelings, he says.

To Denny’s delight, Adam agrees.

“He’s right,” Adam says. “Islanders are passionate about politics. They vote based on their emotions.”

And they hope those emotions will guide voters – straight to the polls.

“I’m pretty confident they’ll get out there and follow through,” Dennis says.

While both Denny and Adam have managed to navigate the sometimes-rough waters of this campaign, they know they haven’t yet reached their destination – the leadership.

But Denny’s supporters have remained their beacon of hope on PEI’s foggy political landscape.

“I just hope the voters can see through all the noise,” Adam says. “I hope they get out and make that change they want to see.”

“I think they will,” Dennis adds.

For the next few days, Denny knows he has just one mission:

Stay the course.