Anthony Rota wants his seat back.
The North Bay native is a familiar face at the political table, having served three terms as federal Liberal member of Parliament for Nipissing-Timiskaming before his upset defeat at the hands of Conservative Jay Aspin in the 2011 federal election, by less than 20 votes after a recount.
“There’s some business that hasn’t been finished,” said Rota.
“The people want to see the riding do well and I think I can help with that.”
Rota, 52, says he takes nothing for granted.
“Politics is a funny game,” he says.
“You never really know what is going to happen and at times the tides change. In this case, there were multiple tides. You can’t really ponder what could have been. You get on with life."
“Probably the biggest thing everybody should learn from that is that every vote counts.”
Since his defeat in 2011, Rota has been at Nipissing University, where he is now director of government relations.
There was an upside to his loss, Rota says.
“My family life improved tremendously,” he said. “My wife and daughter really enjoyed it.”
Rota will face off with Monique Lugli, who announced late last year she would be seeking the riding nomination.
Lugli, 44, is executive director of community services for the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit.
She worked on two provincial elections with former Nipissing MPP Monique Smith.
She says the underdog role suits her just fine and she plans to use it to her advantage, actually.
“I think that I bring some real business acumen,” says Lugli who has experience as a health care professional in the public sector as well as an owner of a speech-language pathology clinic.
“I’m not a lifelong politician,” she said.
“My career aspiration wasn’t to be a politician. It was to serve and help the community. People a tired and cynical about the way things are being done and are looking for a fresh way of doing things.”
She hopes her entry into the race will encourage dialogue.
“My goal is to rejuvenate and reboot the politically party locally,” she said.
“Anytime you see a contested nomination race you’re going to see membership engagement in the party.”
She is well aware the intellectual level of political discourse can turn into a cesspool of negativity and says it’s crucial to focus on the positive.
“There are more people that want to see a positive engaged politician who is going to listen and really move forward with their ideas as opposed to getting buried by all that negative stuff,” she says.
“There is optimism out there and it’s what fuels me.”
The official nomination process locally will likely take place later this winter or possibly early spring following the party’s federal convention in February in Montreal.
“I really enjoyed my time in Ottawa,” said Rota.
“I’d like to do it again. I’m not assuming I’m front-runner at all.”