Wilson facing challenge from five other candidates for East Antrim seat

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Everything from Brexit to betting odds has been cited as the East Antrim Westminster campaign approaches the home straight.

With the electorate going to the poll on Thursday, June 8, candidates have been making their final pitches on the doorstep and via media for the all-important cross on the ballot paper.

And while one runner suggested it was a “two-horse race”, DUP incumbent Sammy Wilson MP faces a challenge from five others for the seat he has held since 2005.

They are: Stewart Dickson, Alliance; Mark Logan, Conservative; Margaret Anne McKillop, SDLP; Oliver McMullan, Sinn Fein; and John Stewart, Ulster Unionist Party.

In 2015, Mr Wilson, one of his party’s high-profile figures who has previously served at ministerial level in the Northern Assembly, polled 12,103 votes.

The Ulster Unionist candidate two years ago was Roy Beggs MLA who received 6,308 votes. This time the party is running newly elected MLA and former Mid and East Antrim Councillor John Stewart.

And it is the cricket-loving businessman who claims that statistics suggest only one of two possible outcomes, himself or Mr Wilson being elected.

That assertion is unlikely to lead to Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson, who retained his Stormont seat in March, or the rest pulling up early.

In 2015, when the turn-out was 53.3 per cent, Mr Dickson polled 5,021 votes and he sees Brexit as a key issue.

Last time out UKIP polled 3,660 votes but the party is not contesting the constituency in 2017.

Nor is Traditional Unionist Voice, who received 1,903 votes. Where their votes go will be keenly observed.

However, standing again is former Sinn Fein MLA Oliver McMullan, who polled 2,314 votes in the 2015 General Election. He too sees Brexit as the big issue facing voters.

Also returning to the campaign trail is SDLP Causeway Coast and Glens Councillor Margaret Anne McKillop, who polled 1,639 votes last time.

The Conservatives are fielding too. In 2015, the party polled 549 votes in East Antrim. Their new man, Mark Logan, is not only urging people to cast their votes but to cast their minds back to the last time the region had a Conservative MP, James Chaine, who entered the House of Commons as MP for Antrim in 1874. Then, he noted, was a time of significant investment in rail and shipping.

Whether history, Europe, statistics or the many other issues aired over the course of the campaign since the snap election was called influence individual choice remains to be see, but in order to have any influence on the outcome at a polling station, where the doors will open at 7.00am and close at 10.00pm, a voter will be required to produce a valid document to confirm identity.