NDP candidates Deron Bilous, at left, and David Eggen second from right, with former NDP leader Brian Mason and Leader Rachel Notley. Below: Disqualified Calgary Wildrose candidate Russ Kuykendall.
The Wildrose Party may not run candidates in some key Edmonton ridings where the Alberta NDP has a strong chance of winning and would benefit from a split vote on the right between the Wildrose and the governing Progressive Conservatives.
Those ridings would include Edmonton-Calder, now held by New Democrat David Eggen, and Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview, where Deron Bilous is now the NDP member.
A top Wildrose strategist confirmed today that the right-wing party “may not make it to 87” – the number of candidates required to contest all the seats in the Alberta Legislature – by the time papers must be filed at 2 p.m. tomorrow.
In the end, the party may run only 82 candidates. There will also likely be no Wildrose candidate challenging former labour minister and deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk in Edmonton-Castle Downs.
Pointing to would-be politicians like former Calgary-Varsity Wildrose candidate Russ Kuykendall, who was disqualified by his party after reports he had written an article in 2007 in which he objected to a gay rights event being held in a Catholic church, the Wildrose strategist complained it’s hard to find candidates willing to risk being pilloried by the media for past slips of the tongue or the keyboard.
“Nobody wants to be the next Allan Hunsperger,” he averred, arguing there is a double standard applied by the media to strong right-wing positions and strong left-wing positions taken by aspiring politicians. Mr. Hunsperger was the evangelical pastor and 2012 Wildrose candidate whose blog post suggesting unrepentant gays were doomed to spend eternity in a lake of fire may have swung the election to Ms. Redford at the last moment.
However, it’s important to remember that the Wildrose Party’s political calculus has changed dramatically since the days when it looked as if it might topple the PC government of then-premier Alison Redford and any seat captured by another party brought the Wildrosers closer to their goal.
Seen realistically, Wildrose Party Leader Brian Jean is now in a race to lead the opposition with NDP Leader Rachel Notley, who is very popular in the Edmonton area. So not splitting the vote with Premier Jim Prentice’s PCs in some Edmonton area ridings could give the Wildrosers an edge in the battle to see which party emerges as the official Opposition.
Obviously, this makes it all the more important that progressive voters in the Edmonton area not split their votes among progressive parties.
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.