Underdogs: the candidates running against Rachel Notley and Jason Kenney
The NDP and UCP party leaders received a substantial majority of votes in their constituencies
It's one thing to run in a provincial election for the very first time. It's quite another to face a party leader who won big in their constituency last time around.
Rachel Timmermans of the Alberta Party and Samantha Hees of the Alberta Liberal Party are running respectively, against United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney in Calgary-Lougheed and NDP Leader Rachel Notley in Edmonton-Strathcona.
Notley won 82.4 per cent of the votes cast in her central Edmonton riding in 2015. Nearly 72 per cent of the votes cast in the December 2017 Calgary-Lougheed byelection went to Kenney.
Although they are the underdogs, both women say they're in it to win.
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"I really believe and feel very strongly about making a positive contribution to the democratic process," said Hees, 30, who works as a curriculum administrator at the University of Alberta's school of medicine.
"Albertans, when they go to the polls, deserve a full slate of candidates in order to vote how they really feel and not so much what fits mostly with their ideals. So best choice, not available choice."
Timmermans, a 22-year-old policy studies student at Mount Royal University, said going up against Kenney, who has never lost an election, is intimidating but she's decided to embrace the challenge.
"I do want to win but I'm also recognizing that this is an uphill battle," she said.
"It's almost kind of fun that way because it's like taking on a big juggernaut. It's almost like a David and Goliath story."
Like Hees, Timmermans thinks it's important to give the voters in Calgary-Lougheed an option.
"At the end of the day it's going to be a fantastic experience no matter how it turns out.," she said.
"And if I end up getting the privilege of representing the people of Calgary-Lougheed, I know that I've worked my butt off for it and I'm going to appreciate it even more.
Although this is Hees's first time running for the legislature, it isn't her first campaign. She ran as a candidate for Edmonton's Ward 10 in the 2017 municipal election, which was won by incumbent Michael Walters.
Hees, who is Cree, said its important for young Indigenous women like herself to seek public office, and help create change in policy by bringing a different perspective to the legislature.
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Hees said she is playing the long game when it comes to politics. Each campaign brings lessons and Hees said she is learning skills like debate preparation, doing interviews and getting up to speed on issues, as well as meeting voters.
"I really want to put up a good fight and really put forward my best campaign," she said. "I'm definitely in it to win it. But I'm very happy with the all the experiences I'm getting if I'm not the successful candidate."
Hees is getting her campaign underway. Timmermans has been campaigning since November and frequently posts updates on her social media feeds. She estimates she has knocked on 4,000 doors in Calgary-Lougheed.
She tries to have more in-depth conversations with people on the doorsteps if they want them.
"I truly believe that if you're going to represent your constituents, you have to get to know them," Timmermans said.
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In addition to Hees, six people are running against Notley in Edmonton-Strathcona: Kulshan Gill (UCP), Prem Pal (Alberta Party), Stuart Andrews (Green Party of Alberta), Naomi Rankin (Communist Party of Alberta), Ian Smythe (Alberta Independence Party) and Gord McLean (Independent).
So far, Kenney is facing five candidates in Calgary-Lougheed: Timmermans (Alberta Party), Julia Bietz (NDP), Wilson McCutchan (Alberta LIberals), Peter De Jonk (Alberta Independence Party), and Larry Heather (Independent).
The deadline for candidate nominations is on Friday.