09/14/2012 05:46 EDT | Updated 11/14/2012 05:12 EST

Liberal Nomination '12: The Race For Calgary Centre


On the 22nd of September Liberals from across downtown Calgary will vote from 9:00 am and 5:00 pm at the Kahanoff Conference Centre,  and vote for one of three (or a rumored four, with the final one being a possible star candidate) candidates vying for the chance to contest the upcoming byelection under the Liberal banner.

Three candidates are raring up to challenge the Liberal nomination in Calgary Centre.

Rahim Sajan, a high school teacher and co-founder of TED Calgary, is running a strong campaign with a strong social media strategy and plenty of personal testimonials. Cutting across different parts of the political landscape and creating a positive vision for the country and for the constituency is a very key theme in Sajan's bid for the Liberal nomination.

He is making a very strong attempt to create an image of youth, an appeal on people and likability, and on forward thinking, positive policy (like reforming the Senate and cost of living in Calgary). His campaign manager, Alex Brien, is a core Alberta Party organizer, and his election team is buffeted by the likes of Zain Velji (Donna Kennedy-Glans' young and upcoming campaign manager in her successful bid in Calgary-Varsity in the 2012 provincial election).

Harvey Locke, an influential conservationist, past provincial Liberal candidate, past president of the Alberta Liberal Party, and lawyer, is coming at this nomination very strongly. With campaign manager Donn Lovett (campaign manager for the successful Joe Clark and not-so-successful Barb Higgins) there is a very strong and focused message by this team: it's about a fiscally prudent, socially progressive, and environmentally responsible platform. Dr. David Swann, Liberal MLA for Calgary Mountainview, has publicly supported Mr. Locke.

While his team is not as social media savvy as Team Rahim his emphasis has been on membership sales, community outreach, and reaching voters. Some Conservative party members have confirmed with me that they have been called by his campaign, speaking to an effort to reach interested voters that have been put off by an extraordinarily polarizing Conservative candidate. His deep roots with the Liberals in the province, a strong campaign team, and a highly skilled effort on getting out the vote makes Harvey Locke a reasonable favorite to win on the 22nd.

The third candidate is Steve Turner (not to be confused with Green candidate and student paper writer Chris Turner). He has noted in media interviews that while he supports fiscal discipline of the federal Tories he is running for the Liberals because the Conservative party is not progressive in their social views. According to Daveberta Mr. Turner is a past supporter of Manitoba Conservative MP Mr. Bruinooge. As he doesn't even have a web presence, his nomination papers haven't been fully vetted by this date, and has showcased a very lackluster attempt to communicate with the Liberal membership (or locals in the riding period) it is very unlikely Mr. Turner will have a chance in the upcoming weeks.

Additional, the fourth rumored star candidate seems to be more a rumor than anything concrete. It does showcase a very important issue in the Liberal nomination. Daveberta has written that the Liberals might be waiting for a star candidate, and that there's a undermining culture within the party that looks to others' personal popularity to gain power and undermining their own base in the process. This is an absolute bogus opinion and let me tell you why.

First of all, a local candidate who works hard is always better than a well-known, 'star candidate'. They put in the effort and focus on campaigning and connecting to a deeper level with the community. Star candidates feel they're stars and they're above rules, know campaigning, and thoroughly undermine themselves through the entire process by peeving off volunteers, supporters, and the electorate. Secondly, star candidates are very annoying to work with. They expect the best campaigns, most media attention, and are not worth the time they demand.

Thirdly, you don't need a star candidate. What you really need is a candidate that is tied to the community, that can speak well to the issues, and will work hard. Also, a star candidate at this time in the nomination process would alienate the local campaigns and cause an implosion in the Liberal support base in Calgary, causing pain and long term problems for the party.  Star candidates are simply not worth the trouble.

The Calgary Centre Liberals have a choice between two very well grounded candidates who are members of the Calgary Centre community, who are passionate, and are articulate, with good organizations behind them.

Anyways, other names have been floated in this race for the Liberal nomination. Chima Nkemdirim, chief of staff to mayor Naheed Nenshi, has been floated more than once or twice, even though he has made a commitment to the mayor to stay as chief of staff for a term and run his re-election campaign. He's out. And at this point it would be unlikely that anyone else would enter the race as the deadline for membership cutoff is tomorrow (September 15th).

With the nomination set to be on the 22nd of September it is looking to be an interesting race between Harvey Locke and Rahim Sajan. With a successful fundraiser in late August with Bob Rae, commitments from the national party to fully fund a Liberal campaign, and campaigners from across southern Alberta lining up to help, the Liberals in Calgary Centre will be putting up a very strong offense in the riding come the byelection.

Election day for the nomination race will be on Saturday, September 22nd, 2012 from between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm  at the Kahanoff Conference Centre (Suite 200, 105 - 12th Avenue SW).

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