Sunday's race pits Ward 1 Coun. Joe Cimino against Paul Loewenberg, who came within a few hundred votes of winning the riding in 2011. Rounding out the field is businessman Gordon Harris, who has run for Green Party and NDP nominations in the past.
Cimino, a special education teacher, has spent seven years on council. He entered the race last July and has since received endorsements from two other city councillors and some local labour leaders, including Leo Gerard, the Sudbury-born head of the United Steelworkers Union.
“Joe Cimino is a community leader with a proven record of delivering for working families,” Gerard is quoted as saying on Cimino's Facebook page. “We need his leadership at Queen's Park.”
Loewenberg, the former artistic director of Northern Lights Festival Boreal and the bar manager at the Townehouse, came close to beating Liberal MPP Rick Bartolucci in 2011, despite the fact Bartolucci was a prominent cabinet minister and had won the riding easily each time around since the 1990s.
He's also attracted endorsements, including from Timmins MPP Charlie Angus and Mine Mill President Richard Paquin.
Richard Eberhardt, president of the Sudbury NDP and chair of the local nomination committee, said the race has more than doubled the size of the party in Sudbury.
“Not that I know of,” Eberhardt said, when asked if the party has ever had more members in Sudbury. “It's pushed us into big riding territory.”
He's expecting a full house Sunday at the Steelworkers Hall on Brady Street, where candidates will make one final pitch for support before voting begins.
Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath, Nickel Belt MPP France Gelinas and Sudbury MP Glenn Thibeault will participate in the meeting, which is open to the public. As of Monday, Eberhardt said he expected Horwath will speak first, followed by the candidates. But that could change, depending on the NDP leader's schedule.
“The candidates deserve all the credit,” Eberhardt said in the release. “Their teams have worked hard since the first day of this race to sign up new members ... The result will be a stronger Sudbury NDP, a photo-finish at Sunday’s vote, and the first major step towards winning the next general election.”
Once voting is complete Sunday, volunteers will manually count the paper ballots, and the order each candidate placed will be announced. Vote counts won't be made public, but each candidate will be given detailed results. If no candidate gets 50 per cent of the votes plus one, the last place finisher is dropped from the ballot and another round of voting is held. The process is repeated until there's winner.
The most recent provincial polls show the NDP with a comfortable lead in Sudbury, and Horwath is the most popular leader, although her party is in third place, behind Tim Hudak's Tories and Premier Kathleen Wynne's Liberals.
The riding has been held by Liberal MPP and former cabinet minister Rick Bartolucci since 1995, who announced in February he was retiring. He agreed to stay on as an MPP until a new election is called. No candidates have stepped forward yet to run for the Liberals in Sudbury, while former school board trustee Paula Peroni is running for the Progressive Conservatives.