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Ed Stelmach and his wife, Marie, listen to applause before addressing the crowd following the results of the second ballot in Edmonton early Sunday morning. ((Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press))

Albertans woke Sunday to a new premier-designate— Ed Stelmach, a 55-year-old soft-spoken farmer who beat former finance minister Jim Dinning after a second weekend of voting by Progressive Conservative party members.

Dinning and rookie backbencher Ted Morton, who was policy director for the Canadian Alliance party,were in first and second place entering Saturday's vote for the provincial Tory leadership.

They were trailed byStelmach,a former intergovernmental affairs minister from the northern Alberta riding of Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville.

But when the ballots were counted, Stelmach came out on top. Many Morton supporters threw their support behind Stelmach, who then cinched the victory to become the province's 13th premier and head of a party that has governed Alberta for 35 consecutive years.

'Good guys do finish first!'

Standing in an old airplane hangar in Edmontonas blue-scarved supporters rocked the iron rafters with chants of "Eddie! Eddie! Eddie!" the man known as "Honest Ed" kissed his wife Marie anddeclared, "Good guys do finish first!"

With all 83 constituencies reporting early Sunday, Stelmach recorded 35.9 per cent of the vote, edging past 35.5 per cent for Dinning.Morton finished third with 28.6 per cent and dropped off the three-man ballot.

A total of 144,289 card-carrying party members voted, listing their first and second choices. With no candidate garnering a majority, Morton's supporters' second choices were apportioned to the top two to determine a winner.

The final tabulation gave Stelmach 53.9 per cent of the vote, compared with 38.5 per cent for Dinning, who was the front-runner going into the second ballot.

Stelmach, who has a reputation as a consensus builder, vowed in his acceptance speech to lead "an open, transparent, and inclusive government."

He steered clear of the mudslinging between the two front-runners during the campaign to replaceRalph Klein,who has been premier for more than 13 yearsand announced his retirement in September.

Stelmachsaid he's taking Sunday off to spend time with his family and won't be making any public appearances until Monday.

With files from the Canadian Press