Incumbent MLA who once compared carbon tax to Ukrainian genocide loses UCP nomination vote

Nate Horner has won the United Conservative Party nomination for Drumheller-Stettler, beating controversial incumbent Rick Strankman.

Rick Strankman lost the nomination for Drumheller-Stettler to challenger Nate Horner

UCP MLA Rick Strankman has lost the nomination for Drumheller-Stettler. (CBC)

Nate Horner has won the United Conservative Party nomination for Drumheller-Stettler, beating incumbent Rick Strankman.

The win means Strankman, who currently serves as the party's agriculture critic, will no longer be an MLA following next year's provincial election.

He's the only UCP incumbent to have lost a nomination vote so far during this election cycle.

'Hard-fought' win: Kenney

UCP Leader Jason Kenney congratulated Horner on what he called a "hard-fought" win Saturday evening.

Farmer Nate Horner won the UCP nomination for Drumheller-Stettler. (Nate Horner/Facebook)

"Nate has a diverse background, with experience in agriculture, oil and gas, and as a small business owner. This, combined with a deep desire to create a better Alberta for his two small children, makes Nate an ideal United Conservative candidate and I'm pleased to welcome him to the team," Kenney said in a statement.

Kenney went on to thank Strankman for his "immense" contributions to the conservative movement, including going to jail to protest the unfairness of the Canadian Wheat Board. 

Controversial MLA

Strankman was no stranger to controversy.

He was arrested for taking wheat across the Canada-U.S. border in protest of the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly in 2002, but he and the other farmers who were arrested were later pardoned.

In 2015, Strankman apologized after organizing a campaign fundraiser that asked attendees to "bring your wife's pie." And in 2016, the MLA apologized after he, along with nine other MLAs, compared the NDP's carbon tax to the genocide of millions of Ukrainians.

He's also been criticized for his skeptical stance on the science behind climate change.

Conservative roots

Horner, 37, is a farmer and rancher who lives with his wife and two young children in Pollockville, near Hanna, Alta.

Horner credited his win to his age and an ability to connect with a different demographic.

"There is still some baggage from the past and we have a new party, a new riding, a new leader and there's kind of an appetite for a new representative," he said. 

He's part of a family with deep Conservative roots, with relatives including former senator R.B. Horner, former MPs Jack, Hugh, Albert and Norval Horner and former deputy premier Doug Horner.

"We were always brought up that it was important to pay attention," he said.

Earlier in the week, nomination candidate Todd Pawsey was disqualified from the Drumheller-Stettler race after he was accused of making "inappropriate" Facebook posts.

"I was open, honest, blunt, and forthcoming (as is my character) about everything — again my posts rip NDP policy, not the groups their policies are about," Pawsey said on Facebook.