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Former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi announces bid for Alberta NDP leadership

Following weeks of speculation, former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi has officially entered the race to be the next leader of the Alberta NDP.

“I’m Naheed Nenshi, and I’m running to be leader of the Alberta NDP and your next premier,” he said in a video posted online on Monday.

“Together, we can beat Danielle Smith and the UCP.”

In the video, Nenshi targeted the premier and her government while contrasting the plight of Albertans in areas of health care, climate-related phenomena and affordability.
“What we need now is smart, credible government,” he said. “And sadly, we don’t have it.

“The only things they know how to do or pick fights and waste money. And while they indulge themselves in their friends, life gets harder for all of us. But it doesn’t have to be that way.”

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Rumours about Nenshi’s candidacy began to swirl after the contest to replace outgoing leader Rachel Notley was announced earlier this year.

In his video announcement, Nenshi said he wanted to “build on the tremendous legacy of Rachel Notley and all of those who worked hard for this party.”

Nenshi is the sixth candidate to enter the race so far along with Calgary-Mountain View MLA Kathleen Ganley, Edmonton-Glenora MLA Sarah Hoffman, Edmonton-Whitemud MLA Rahki Pancholi, Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse and Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan.

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Candidates have until March 15 to register for the race.

Voting will begin on June 3 and run until June 22, when the results will be tallied and a winner announced.

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“I think (Nenshi) adds a lot more sizzle and a lot more excitement,” said Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University in Calgary. “He’s got much more name recognition than any other candidate, not just in Calgary but Alberta and nationwide.”

Nenshi sprang to national relevance after being elected mayor of Calgary in 2010 with 39 per cent of the vote, as the first Muslim mayor of a Canadian city and of a large North American city.

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He was thrust back into the national spotlight for his work throughout emergency response efforts during the devastating floods that ravaged the city in 2013, which led to his re-election with 73.6 per cent of the vote later that year.

Nenshi’s last run for re-election came in 2017 during a hard fought campaign against his main opponent Bill Smith.  Nenshi won a third term with 51 per cent of the vote while Smith garnered 43 per cent of the vote in a campaign that drew the highest voter turnout in 40 years.

After 10 years in the role, Nenshi announced he would not seek re-election in the 2021 municipal election.

The former mayor is known for wearing the colour purple, a combination of red and blue which he’s previously said represents a “post-partisan community where we can work together regardless of our political leanings.”

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Evan Menzies, a senior campaign strategist with Crestview Strategy, said Nenshi’s centrist approach may face challenges with longtime NDP members who are protective of the party’s brand and values.

“Nenshi’s brand is purple, he’s a centrist, he’s always tried to appeal in the middle, whereas the NDP base has always been traditionally much further left than the middle in Alberta politics,” Menzies told Global News. “Will they welcome Nenshi in the race? Will they see Nenshi as the path they need to get back into power, or will they be more protective?”

Seldom publicly supporting a party, Nenshi did endorse Notley and the NDP in the last provincial election, despite describing it as a “loan” vote rather than outright support.

More to come…

Click to play video: 'Political analyst weighs in on Alberta NDP leadership race'

Political analyst weighs in on Alberta NDP leadership race

&© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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