Wab Kinew has passed his first electoral test as leader of the Manitoba NDP, as CBC News has projected he will win his seat in Fort Rouge and the party will gain seats this election.
The Opposition party is projected to win 18 seats in Manitoba's 57-seat legislature — four more than they won in 2016.
And New Democrats were celebrating Tuesday night.
The Metropolitan Theatre in Winnipeg exploded in cheers as Kinew took the stage Tuesday night. Voters, he said, made it clear that "they want us to be the conscience of Manitoba."
"I don't think we were defeated tonight," he told the crowd. "And the sign that many Manitobans agree are all the New Democrat MLAs elected today."
Spirits were high as the party faithful celebrated several gains: the party won back St. Vital, unseating incumbent cabinet minister Colleen Mayer, regained seats in northern Manitoba and staved off a possible defeat by the Green Party in Wolseley.
"We increased our seat count, we took out a cabinet minister. This was a very good night," Kinew said following his speech.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew speaks to supporters on Tuesday night:
There were, however, losses for the party, with longtime NDP MLA Ted Marcelino being unseated by Liberal candidate Cindy Lamoureux in Tyndall Park.
"I love Ted. He gave so much to this campaign and you are pointing out one outcome, but Ted probably won us three or four other seats," Kinew said when asked about the loss.
"I feel energized, enthused and proud," said Kinew, who ran against Green Party Leader James Beddome and four other candidates in Fort Rouge, a seat he first won in 2016.
Kinew said he has no plans to step down as party leader, and expects to lead the NDP in the next election.
In addition to Fort Rouge, the NDP are projected to win several other seats previously held by the party, including Nahanni Fontaine's St. Johns seat and Amanda Lathlin's seat in The Pas-Kameesak.
The mood in the room Tuesday got a boost when the NDP was projected to win St. Vital, with candidate Jamie Moses projected to defeat incumbent cabinet minister Colleen Mayer. The party had pinned a lot of hopes and resources into Moses being successful after his second stab at the seat.
"What we are seeing is positive energy," Nahanni Fontaine said at The Met Tuesday evening. "We have made history tonight."
Moses will make history, along with the Union Station NDP candidate Uzoma Asagwara, as the first black MLAs elected to the Manitoba Legislature, according to CBC News projections. Tory candidate Audrey Gordon is also projected to win in Southdale, bringing the total number of black MLAs elected to three.
"It is representation that is needed in our province," Kinew said.
NDP campaign co-chair Bea Bruske also said St. James is projected to swing back to the NDP after being lost to the PCs in 2016. Diljeet Brar is the projected winner in Burrows, a seat previously held by the Manitoba Liberals.
Northern Manitoba has also returned to the NDP fold, with wins projected in Flin Flon, Thompson, Keewatinook and The Pas-Kameesak.
The party was shocked by losing Keewatinook to the Liberals and Thompson to the PCs in 2016, said Chris Adams, a political scientist at St. Paul's College at the University of Manitoba.
"That northern pillar is back under the wings" of the NDP, he said.
"We have the centre-left in this campaign fragmented across three parties.… [The] NDP should feel happy about how they came out tonight."
11 new NDP MLAs
Eleven new New Democrat MLAs were elected Tuesday night, meaning the Opposition party will now have more rookie MLAs than incumbents.
The Opposition NDP went into the 2019 election with 12 seats — two less than they held after the 2016 election.
They lost St. Boniface to the Manitoba Liberals in a 2018 byelection after former leader Greg Selinger resigned his seat. Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont is projected to hold onto that seat for his party.
The Maples seat was lost in 2017 after Mohinder Saran was kicked out of the NDP caucus following sexual harassment allegations.
The NDP lost power after 17 years in government in 2016, when Brian Pallister's PCs won a historic 40-seat majority.
Throughout this year's 29-day election campaign, the NDP focused on health care as its main issue and rarely veered from leader Wab Kinew's message that the NDP would reverse health care changes made under Pallister's government.