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A hotly contested Conservative nomination race in a Greater Toronto Area riding is pitting experience against a fresh voice.

Former National Post columnist Sabrina Maddeaux and former member of Parliament Costas Menegakis are vying for the chance to be the Conservative candidate in Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill, a riding the Conservatives hope to steal from the Liberals in the next election.

Maddeaux, 35, launched her campaign in January. Menegakis declared in February.

The riding has swapped back and forth from Liberal to Conservative over the last four elections.

Menegakis was elected in 2011 in Richmond Hill but contested the new riding of Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill in 2015. He lost to Liberal candidate Leona Alleslev. Alleslev crossed the floor to the Conservatives in 2018 and won re-election as a Tory in 2019. However, she lost the seat to Liberal Leah Taylor Roy in 2021.

After 2015, Menegakis also lost in the 2019 and 2021 elections in Richmond Hill.

The Conservative Party of Canada’s nomination rules do not permit candidates who lost two elections in a row to run, unless they get a waiver from the party’s national council, which Menegakis received.

 A representative of the Conservative party declined to comment for this story, saying they “do not discuss internal party matters.”

Menegakis did not respond to an interview request from True North.

Maddeaux, a first-time candidate, said the riding needed a “fresh voice.”

“What I look at as the mark of whether a country is succeeding or failing, the number one question to ask, ‘Is every generation better off than the last?’” Maddeaux said. “My generation, the millennial generation, is the first generation to actually not be better off than the last and not be better off than their parents.”

As a renter and someone who’s covered political issues for years, Maddeaux said she believes she is the type of candidate the Conservative party needs to take on Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in the next election.

“Costas was sort of a great MP. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to win the last few times around. So I feel that it is time for a change in the riding,” Maddeaux said.

Maddeaux isn’t taking anything for granted. She considers herself the underdog in this race compared to the experience Menegakis brings.

“It’s a contested race. Having first been an MP in 2011, even though he hasn’t been an MP since 2015, there’s a legacy institutional advantage there, of course,” she said.

Maddeaux and her team have been campaigning since mid-January.

“We’ve knocked on hundreds of doors, made many calls,” she said. “We have a great group of volunteers within the riding and volunteers travelling up to two hours outside of the riding, which is pretty unheard of for a nomination campaign.”

She’s encouraged by the number of young people involved in the campaign and believes the impact they feel from Trudeau’s policies drives them to action.

“The past stereotype has been that young people are less likely to be conservative or less likely to be involved in politics in general.” Maddeaux said. ”Not only are we seeing younger generations flock to Pierre’s Conservative Party, but they’re not just going on Twitter and talking about it. They’re showing up and making phone calls after work when they can between their two jobs.”

Her campaign team has been working to sell memberships to conservatives who aren’t members of the party to expand the base of support.

Residents of the riding can buy memberships and vote in the nomination race.

“In a swing riding, you have to put in the work to win that every single time. The polls look good right now. But you can’t take things for granted, especially if you want to hold the riding for years or even decades to come,” Maddeaux said.

She says people are happy to see her team at the door because they haven’t had a Conservative knock on their door in a very long time.

“My campaign shows we’re willing to put in the work and listen to people. People are very understandably frustrated right now because they feel like the institutions that are supposed to listen to them, represent them, and help them…aren’t doing that,” Maddeaux said.
Maddeaux’s campaign was given a nod by Oshawa MP Colin Carrie when Jamil Jivani, also a millennial, was elected earlier this month in a Durham byelection.

“You’re seeing younger people attracted to the party who are also great communicators. If you look at Sabrina or Jamil, they have a history of (being) very strong communicators and very good listeners. And I think young people are attracted to that,” Carrie said.

A date for the nomination has not yet been called.