05/13/2014 02:04 EDT | Updated 07/13/2014 05:59 EDT

No coronation: Ric McIver says he's staying in PC Alberta leadership race

EDMONTON - Former cabinet minister Ric McIver says he will not drop out of the Alberta PC leadership race to allow perceived front-runner Jim Prentice to win by acclamation.

"I announced my intentions. My announcement stands," McIver, who represents the constituency of Calgary-Hays, said Tuesday in an interview.

"I love this province and I'm very committed to serving Alberta, and I look forward to hearing from Martha and Henry and all the ordinary Albertans."

Media speculation of a McIver withdrawal roiled Monday after the other declared candidate in the race, Ken Hughes, pulled out to support Prentice.

"With all due respect to the media, they don't get to decide who the leader of the party is, nor do the MLAs and nor do the insiders," said McIver, who resigned as infrastructure minister to enter the race.

"Who gets to decide are ordinary Albertans who choose to take a (PC party) membership.

"And I would invite all of them to take part, because it's their voice that needs to be heard."

The campaign to replace former premier Alison Redford as party leader and premier officially begins Thursday.

McIver, a longtime Calgary alderman before he entered provincial politics, announced last week that he would run.

Prentice, a one-time Calgary MP and cabinet minister under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has not formally announced his candidacy. But the 57-year-old has let it be known through intermediaries that he will soon enter the contest.

McIver, 55, suggested that while he has heard arguments from insiders that he should step aside, it's just the normal cut and thrust of politics.

"With every campaign there's a certain amount of gamesmanship," he said. "And I'm sure for anyone that is in favour of a particular candidate it would be nice to have only their candidate in the race.

"But that doesn't change the fact I have committed to being in the race. I will stick with what I'm doing."

Patricia Misutka, campaign co-chair for Prentice, said the Prentice team never believed it would be a one-horse race.

"I don't think anybody ever expected otherwise, certainly in terms of the people putting together the Prentice campaign," said Misutka.

"There's never been any conversation that anticipated anything except a competition."

So far, 14 Tory MLAs have committed to supporting Prentice, including cabinet ministers Doug Horner, Diana McQueen, Fred Horne, Jonathan Denis, Robin Campbell and Greg Weadick.

Jobs Minister Thomas Lukaszuk has said he is still considering a run at the top job.

The first candidate to officially declare was Hughes on April 11, who left his post as municipal affairs minister to enter the race. Hughes promised to stay in, even when Prentice let his intentions be known two weeks ago.

On Monday, Hughes, 60, said he'd had a change of heart and would support Prentice. "That was then, this is now," he said.

All candidates must pay a $50,000 non-refundable fee. Voting takes place Sept. 6. If there are more than three candidates and no candidate receives more than 50 per cent support at that time, the top two move on to a runoff vote on Sept. 20.