EDMONTON — The only two female candidates in the Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership contest quit the race Tuesday.
One of them, Sandra Jansen, said she had been harassed and intimidated and accused fellow leadership candidate Jason Kenney of bringing "Trump-style politics" to Alberta.
Jansen, a Calgary member of the legislature, resigned from the race in a letter to her supporters.
"This past weekend in Red Deer (at the party's policy convention) has left me quite shaken," Jansen wrote.
She said after more than 30 years in the Progressive Conservatives, "I have never before experienced harassment like that which occurred up to and including this past weekend.
"Insults were scrawled on my nomination forms. Volunteers from another campaign chased me up and down the hall, attacking me for protecting women's reproductive rights, and my team was jeered for supporting children's rights to a safe school environment."
She said the weekend was "the final straw" in a campaign of intimidation. She said that in recent months "my social media has been filled with filth (and) my domain name purchased to direct people to smear pieces on me."
Jansen was one of two women in the race to become the next leader of the PCs.
The other, former PC MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans, also announced in a news release she was departing the race.
Kennedy-Glans, in her letter, said she was a fiscal conservative and a social progressive, but wrote, "Right now, politics in Alberta is polarizing and there is limited opportunity for centrist voices to be heard."
Both Kennedy-Glans and Jansen have criticized Kenney for busing in youth delegates at last weekend's convention to vote for members of the youth executive. The youth wing has been given a number of votes for the delegated leadership convention, which takes place next March 18 in Calgary.
The youth delegates arrived by bus, met former prime minister Stephen Harper and Kenney in a closed-door event at the convention site and voted. Kenney told reporters he had been engaging with youth groups during the campaign and lauded the influx of youth as a heartening example of democracy in action.
Kenney, in a news release Tuesday, said he was "disappointed" the two had dropped out.
"Both are passionate advocates for their values, and it is important to have a range of views and choices in a leadership election," wrote Kenney.
There are now four candidates in the race: Kenney, PC MLA Richard Starke, former PC MLA Stephen Khan, and Calgary lawyer Byron Nelson, who announced Tuesday he was joining the contest.
The interim PC leader Ric McIver told reporters that all voices need to be heard in the leadership race.
"If I hear someone say they were intimidated out of the contest, then that's a very sad thing indeed," said McIver.
"We have to be doubly careful about making women feel unsafe in politics. When we get to that point, we are in a dangerous situation."
Katherine O'Neill, the president of the PC party, said that the committee overseeing the leadership race will review Jansen's allegations.
"We are committed to a fair, open and transparent race," said O'Neill in a statement.
"Leadership contests by their nature are divisive, but we expect candidates and their supporters to conduct themselves in a respectful manner."
Kenney, a former Calgary MP, has polarized debate in the PC leadership race. The other candidates are running on a platform to revitalize the party, which finished third in the 2015 election.
Kenney is running on a promise to call for a membership vote to collapse the party, then seeks to merge it with the right-centre Wildrose Party and create a new big tent conservative coalition he said is critical to defeating Premier Rachel Notley's NDP in the 2019 election.
The Wildrose is viewed as more socially conservative than the PCs, and both Jansen and Kennedy-Glans have said they worry Kenney is taking the PCs down the same path.
Jansen has often sparred with the Wildrose in the legislature and has previously said if Kenney wins the race, she'll quit the party. In her letter Tuesday she took a parting shot at Kenney.
"Work for a candidate who opposes the Trump-style politics imported to Alberta from Ottawa," she wrote.