Kent Hehr officially launches Calgary Centre campaign
Liberal MP hasn't been elected in Calgary since the 1960s
Kent Hehr already represents Calgary in the provincial legislature — but now the popular MLA wants to do so federally.
He officially kicked of his run for the federal Liberal nomination in Calgary Centre on Thursday night.
"I believe this city has done itself no great favours by always voting lock, stock and barrel Conservative," said Hehr.
Conservatives only narrowly held the federal riding in the heart of Calgary in a byelection last November.
Traditionally one of its safest ridings in the country, Tory candidate Joan Crockatt won with just 36.9 per cent of the vote to Liberal Harvey Locke's 32.7 per cent.
A federal Liberal hasn't been elected in Calgary since the 1960s.
Close byelection last year
But Liberal supporters — and some longtime political watchers — see last year's byelection results as a good omen for the party in the 2015 federal election.
"Kent Hehr is a popular MLA," says Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt.
He points out that part of Hehr's current provincial riding overlaps the federal riding of Calgary Centre.
Bratt also stressed that Justin Trudeau remains more popular than recent Liberal leaders.
"So, I think [Hehr's] got an opportunity," said Bratt. "A better chance than most candidates have had in a very long time."
Supporters at Hehr's nomination campaign kick-off are also buoyed by the prospect of him going to Ottawa.
"I really appreciate his values. His commitment to his constituents. He's got a record already at the provincial level," said Kerry Cundal.
Constituents weigh in
"I think he will be an excellent MP," says Tyson Walls. "I think he has more integrity than most politicians."
Eugene Stickland likes how visible Hehr is in his provincial riding, telling the story of how he once saw Hehr talking with a group of "bottle pickers" near a recycling depot.
"He knew them by name," said Stickland.
"They certainly knew him. They talked stuff about life and then they all kind of drifted away and I had a conversation and I thought, 'Kent, you know everyone in this riding.' And he said, 'Well, you know, I try.' And he's just amazing. He's just out there motoring around all the time."
But there is some speculation that Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s chief of staff Chima Nkemdirim is also considering seeking the Liberal nomination for Calgary Centre.
The Liberal Party of Canada in Calgary Centre says the nomination vote will be held in mid-November.