Wanda Dennis had never been a card-carrying member of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta, but she decided to join the ranks this year in time to vote in the party’s leadership race.
The Stettler woman’s reasoning for casting a vote in Saturday’s first ballot was straightforward.
“Because I want Alison to win,” a smiling Dennis said of candidate Alison Redford, who ranks second behind front-runner Gary Mar after the first round of voting.
“I heard Alison speak and I like her, so I want her to win.”
Mar, Redford and Doug Horner are the three remaining candidates in the bid to become party leader and the successor to outgoing Premier Ed Stelmach.
The other three challengers — Ted Morton, Rick Orman and Doug Griffiths — failed to gain enough votes Saturday and are no longer in the leadership race.
Even before the campaign began, Dennis listened to Redford speak about her Alberta vision.
“And then I heard her again and I really liked her, so I’ve now put my hat kind of in her (corner),” Dennis, 47, said after she voted Saturday at the Stettler Recreation Centre poll.
“I like how she’s laid out her platform. When I hear her talk about the various issues, she seems to have thought out how she’s going to achieve what she’s trying to achieve. She’s not just throwing out the lovely phrases that work good in a sound bite. She seems to have thought a little bit about how she’d actually implement them. I’m impressed with that.”
Dennis, who works in the oil and gas industry, wasn’t alone in her Stettler support for Redford. Her mother, Shirley Dennis, has been a Tory member for “a long time,” and she’s backing Redford for similar reasons.
“You betcha,” Shirley said. “We started reading about her in the Red Deer Advocate and we’ve seen her on TV, and I just like her.
“Hopefully, she does something so that a lot of our jobs don’t go down south. The oil, for example, get those refineries here and do our stuff here and not send it down south.”
By midday Saturday, Peter Simons and fellow Stettler poll workers had seen about half of the 160 voters who showed up at the Stettler Recreation Centre poll to cast a ballot between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Simons, a town councillor and a member of the Clearview school board, wanted to be a part of the selection of the next leader of the governing Conservatives.
“I think it’s important to participate in these leadership campaigns, because that’s where we get our voice in terms of who gets in for the party,” Simons said. “And ultimately then, of course, you’ll have to vote in an election.”
“To me, you’ve got to participate, or else nothing happens.”
Although he hasn’t been a member of other parties, Simons said he’s been a card-carrying Tory “off and on” over the years.
“I’ve gotten certainly more interested in the last few years, particularly as I’ve gotten involved in municipal politics, because there’s just so much interaction between provincial and municipal politics that it’s healthy to be involved in both.”
He declined to say how he voted Saturday, because he didn’t believe it was appropriate for poll workers to publicly endorse one candidate or another.
The second ballot is scheduled for Oct. 1, with the winner to be announced in Edmonton.
In the initial round, Mar gained 24,195 votes, or 41 per cent of the overall vote. The 49-year-old former cabinet minister from the Ralph Klein era had been pegged as the man to beat.
Redford, 46, was the justice minister under Stelmach but quit that job to run for the premiership.
She picked up 11,127 votes Saturday to garner 19 per cent of the 59,359 ballots cast.
Horner, a 50-year-old Edmonton-area MLA who was the deputy premier, sits in third place after collecting 8,635 votes (14.5 per cent).