Stephen Mandel chosen new leader of Alberta Party
Mandel will replace Calgary-Elbow MLA Greg Clark as leader of the party, which has three MLAs
Former Edmonton mayor and Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Stephen Mandel has been chosen the next leader of the Alberta Party.
Mandel got 66 per cent of the 4,613 votes cast in a race against Calgary lawyer Kara Levis and Calgary-South East MLA Rick Fraser. Levis and Fraser received 18 per cent and 16 per cent of the votes, respectively.
Mandel told reporters after the announcement Tuesday that he plans to win the next provincial election in 2019.
"No question," he said. "I wouldn't do this to be second place, kiddo. This is about winning."
Mandel replaces Calgary-Elbow MLA Greg Clark as leader of the party, which has three MLAs in the 87-member Alberta legislature.
Mandel does not have a seat, but said he has no plans to seek one until the 2019 election, even with an upcoming byelection in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake.
Former UCP MLA Don MacInytre resigned that seat earlier this month after he was charged with sexual assault and sexual interference. A byelection must be called within six months of his resignation.
Mandel will instead focus on getting the party ready for the 2019 election, which includes recruiting candidates across the province.
"We've got some great people in the House with Karen [McPherson] and Greg [Clark] and Rick [Fraser]," he said. "They can do a wonderful job."
Despite their loss, both Levis and Fraser want to run as Alberta Party candidates in the 2019 election, with Levis considering a run in Calgary-Klein.
Turnout for the leadership vote was high, with 72 per cent of eligible members casting a ballot. Given that number, Levis said she wasn't surprised by Mandel's win.
"Stephen Mandel had recruited quite a number of members and I give his team credit for that work and also making sure those people got out and voted," she said.
Fraser said the loss stung a little, but said the campaign was a good learning experience. Fraser brushed off the issue of the party's new leader not having a seat in the legislature.
"I will do whatever I can to support him and the party while I'm in the legislature and that's my role now," he said.
Clark stepped down in November in what he said was a bid to increase interest and membership sales in the party. He told reporters that the leadership race helped the party reach those goals.
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"We've captured the attention and, I hope, the imagination of Albertans," Clark said. "We've shown that there is a viable option in the middle of the political spectrum. And the good news is that's where most Albertans are."
Tuesday's announcement at the Lister Conference Centre in Edmonton followed two-and-a-half days of online voting.
The party has seen a surge of interest in the past year.
In March 2017, the party had 1,024 members.That number increased 6,543 by Feb. 12, the deadline for people to buy memberships if they wanted to vote for the new leader.
The party has attracted some former members of the Progressive Conservative party who feel the United Conservative Party isn't progressive enough on social issues.
The UCP formed last summer after a majority of PC and Wildrose members voted to merge their parties.