And then there were two.
The race for the Wildrose nomination in Drumheller-Stettler is down to two candidates after three others dropped out of the race because they failed to meet the party’s qualification standards, said constituency association president Alf Erichsen of Botha.
Still in the mix are Rick Strankman of Altario and Doug Wade of Drumheller.
Four candidates participated in the first of five Wildrose forums held across the riding in recent weeks, but Strankman and Wade were the only candidates who took part in all of those rallies.
“That was a testing-out period,” Erichsen said. “We actually had five people who were interested and … we knew some of them were not going to make it.”
“To complete the nomination — to actually qualify to run — they (each) had to put up a monetary deposit of $1,500 (and) they had to have 75 paid-up members sign their nomination form. The monetary one … you can usually come up with. But to get 75 signatures is a challenge.”
“I didn’t set the rules, but the reason for it is we don’t need frivolous entries.”
At the same time, the constituency association president said he would have preferred to see more candidates in the race.
“I’d sooner have four or five, but that’s not an option I can control,” Erichsen said. “But I’m satisfied with the two candidates we have.”
The fledgling Wildrose party has tried to translate its provincial momentum into the Drumheller-Stettler riding, but Erichsen admitted that has been a challenge in the dying weeks of summer and a crowded schedule of community events.
“That’s our problem,” he said. “There’s too many other things going on.”
“Right now, we’re talking to mainly the converted. It’s the people that are going to get to vote for the two candidates. You can buy a membership yet, but that’s expiring quickly. If you want to vote for these candidates, the membership has to be bought by the middle of September.”
As the Sept. 15 deadline looms, Erichsen estimated Monday night that there are “between 600 and 700” members registered in the riding.
The strategy of recruiting members — and would-be voters — is not lost on the two candidates.
“No doubt,” said Erichsen, who succeeded Strankman as constituency president this summer.
“That’s how you win one of these elections, is you’ve got to sell memberships to people you know will vote for you. If they want to win, they’ve got to have enough people that are party members vote for them.”
Wildrose has scheduled its Drumheller-Stettler voting for a six-day period, beginning Oct. 3 in Stettler and ending Oct. 8 in Hanna, where the winner will be announced that Saturday night.
“Most of them will be 7 to 9 p.m. meetings,” Erichsen said of the poll schedule. “It’s a bad time, in a way, for a rural area, because it is harvest time. But it will be 7 to 9 p.m., except for Hanna. That one will start in the afternoon, because it’ll be the last one. There’ll be a party afterwards.”
At each polling station, voters will have an opportunity to hear brief speeches from both candidates and chat with Strankman and Wade.
The candidates have just toured the riding, and crowds of about 50 showed up each night for forums in Drumheller, Stettler, Hanna, Oyen and Consort, Erichsen reported.
“Stettler was probably the lowest turnout,” he said.
The MLA for Drumheller-Stettler is Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Jack Hayden, who is part of a Progressive Conservative machine that has dominated Alberta politics for 40 years. The Tories celebrated that anniversary Tuesday.
Erichsen believes that Wildrose, making strides provincially under popular leader Danielle Smith, can give Hayden a fight in the next election.
“We’re putting a lot of effort into it,” he said. “I guess you could say we’re hopeful. But there are no guarantees in elections.”
“There are some major issues that have really changed the dynamics, in terms of Jack Hayden being able to be re-elected. This is a rural riding, with a high percentage of rural voters. There are land use bills passed in the last session of legislature that basically strip landowners of their rights. That’s the major issue.”