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Gerrard will run, maybe vs. Pallister

Jon Gerrard has announced he will seek a fifth term in the legislature, ending speculation about his political future.

His decision will fuel speculation about a potentially titanic battle in his Winnipeg seat of River Heights in the next provincial election, expected in the spring of 2016.

Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister moved to the riding a year ago, sparking rumours he would run there in the next election. Pallister now represents Fort Whyte.

Gerrard, the lone Liberal in the legislature, stepped down as the party's leader last fall. Rana Bokhari, a city lawyer, won a three-way contest to replace him in October.

Gerrard had always maintained he would finish the current term and did not rule out seeking re-election. On Wednesday, he cleared the air about his future.

Bokhari, who has yet to decide where she will run in two years' time, said Wednesday she is "very excited" at Gerrard's decision.

"Jon has been an amazing MLA for River Heights for a very long time. I'm proud to have him back on the team for the next go-around. It's the beginning of building our new team, so it's great," she said.

Bokhari said she plans to select a constituency for herself within the next six months. She said she has four or five options in mind.

While River Heights may have presented her with the best shot at winning a seat in 2016, Bokhari maintained Wednesday she had not been counting on such a scenario.

"I want River Heights to have a strong voice and I think Jon represents River Heights in the best way possible," she said. "He's the man for the job."

Gerrard, 66, pronounced himself healthy and full of energy on Wednesday. He predicted Liberal fortunes would rise under Bokhari's leadership.

"I'm ready to keep on (as MLA) as long as people would have me," the former federal Liberal cabinet minister said.

Meanwhile, Pallister refused to be categorical as to which constituency he would seek to represent next time around.

"I'm not declaring yet," he said outside the legislature. "But I'm enjoying representing Fort Whyte very much."

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

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