Ryan Hastman has had his Dan Quayle moment.
Hastman, 31, is the Conservative Party's star candidate in the Edmonton-Strathcona riding, chosen to appeal to the electoral district's large population of university students and thereby unseat New Democrat Member of Parliament Linda Duncan in the May 2 federal election.
As the only New Democrat elected in Alberta, which as stated in the Gospel According to St. Stephen Harper is supposed to be an unbroken sea of Conservative blue, Duncan is an irritating burr under the prime ministerial saddle.
She makes the PM so mad he accused her of trying to shut down the entire oil industry and put all Albertans out of work, which, even given the usual evidentiary challenged standards of Reform Party electioneering, was a little over the top. Hastman, as the 21st century's version of Rahim Jaffer, is supposed to fix all that.
Dan Quayle, of course, was the Republican vice-president of the United States during the first Bush presidency who compared himself to John F. Kennedy in the 1988 vice-presidential TV debate with Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, the Democratic candidate for VP on the Michael Dukakis ticket. Sen. Bentsen famously snapped back: "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."
Meanwhile, back in Alberta, Hastman made a radio appearance in which he compared himself to Laurence Decore, the late mayor of Edmonton and leader of the Alberta Liberals who 1993 came closest in decades to toppling the provincial government's historically unassailable Tory dynasty.
Up to then, the only big news from Hastman's campaign has been the role played by his pal Sebastien Togneri (allegedly just pounding in election signs) who turned out to be under investigation by the RCMP for interfering with access to information requests that could have embarrassed the government while he worked in a Conservative minister's office in Ottawa. When that news leaked out, Togneri beat a hasty retreat back to Central Canada.
At an all-candidates' meeting Tuesday on the University of Alberta campus, Decore's widow emotionally stood up and took Hastman to task for using her husband's name in an attempt to advance Prime Minister Harper's neo-con agenda.
"It's insulting. He's a man who is nothing like you," Anne Marie Decore told the 200 students at the forum. "To try and ride the coattails of a man who has been dead 12 years is repugnant.
"My husband’s ideals and beliefs were not like this Tory government of Mr. Hastman's!"
The Edmonton Journal covered Anne Marie. Decore's observations in a news story that also quoted a leaked email from Hastman telling supporters he's losing to Duncan. The Edmonton Sun, which is now openly and crudely campaigning for Hastman and Harper in its news columns ("Iggy Channels Mao"), did not bother to report on the exchange with Anne Marie Decore at all.
As for Hastman's emailed plea telling supporters that "if tomorrow was election day, we'd probably lose, I need help," this is profoundly to be hoped.
But New Democrats in Edmonton-Strathcona must not risk assuming that their candidate, who squeaked in by only 463 votes over the appalling Jaffer in 2008, is actually in the lead. The Conservatives have been pouring (subsidized) mail, manpower and money into the riding to eliminate of the tiny dot of NDP orange on Alberta's electoral map. Despite the deficiencies of their current standard bearer in Edmonton-Strathcona, they could well succeed.
Still, Dan Quayle never lived down his Ryan Hastman moment. It would be nice if history were to repeat itself in Edmonton-Strathcona, at least in this regard!
This post also appears on David Climenhga's blog, Alberta Diary.
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