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Rumble on the right: Conservative candidates stampede into Calgary Centre

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Calgary Centre Candidate Joan Crockatt

By the time the dust settles, at least a dozen candidates are likely to contest the Conservative Party nomination for the federal riding of Calgary Centre.

Now that MP Lee Richardson has handed in his walking papers to become Premier Alison Redford's principal secretary, two candidates have already formally announced their intention to seek the Conservative nomination in the riding once home to Progressive Conservative PM Joe Clark.

They are:

-    Joan Crockatt, a well-known freelance broadcaster renowned for her tenure as managing editor of the Calgary Herald during the turbulent years of the late 1990s. Crockatt, an ardent Twitterista, is reported to have approached Alberta's most famous campaign director before settling on a lesser light. Crockatt describes herself as a social moderate. She is very conservative on economic issues, however. She has confirmed her intention to run and says "I'm in the race and very excited."

-    Andy Crooks, Calgary lawyer, former director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (which it cannot be said too frequently does not represent the interests of Canadian taxpayers) and signatory to the famed Firewall Manifesto with such other noted Alberta independentistes as Prime Minister Stephen Harper himself, failed Wildrose Party campaign manager Tom Flanagan, and unemployed rightwinger-with-a-PhD Ted Morton. Crooks announced by Tweet on Friday he was running.

Other rumoured but as-yet unconfirmed candidates for the job include:

-    Richard Billington, Calgary lawyer, member of the Conservative Party’s National Policy Commission.

-    Sean Chu, a former police officer, pizza parlour operator and perennial conservative candidate for various levels of government in the Calgary area.

-    Ezra Levant, a well-known far-right bloviator, "Ethical Oil" muse and Sun TV broadcaster known for his offensive on-air attacks on people he disagrees with, or, in one famous case, the mother of one of them. He's tight with the Harperistas. May have said he wasn't running, but if he did, I can't find it tonight. Almost as many Tweets as Crockatt.

-    Jon Lord, former Calgary alderman, former provincial MLA (embarrassingly defeated by then-Liberal Dave Taylor), unsuccessful candidate for mayor of Calgary (0.4 per cent of vote) in 2011, unsuccessful candidate for Alberta PC nomination this year in Calgary-Currie, self-described "ZenMeister," martial arts guy. Once ran a classic video store, which is definitely a point in his favour.

-    Rod Love, you know, that Rod Love, operator of the Love Machine, Alberta Diary's name for the Canadian political strategy company most likely to give its candidates the electoral kiss of death. Defeated as a provincial PC in 1992 in Calgary-Buffalo, receiving just 15 per cent of the vote. Now he's a CBC broadcaster and he turns out to be really good at that job. No offence meant, but it's said here Love should stick with broadcasting.

-    John Mar, Calgary Ward 8 Alderman and former RCMP beat cop in Burnaby, B.C., who calls Richardson his mentor. He too has all but declared his candidacy.

-    Peter Menzies, another relic from the Calgary Herald's turbulent 1990s era. Since leaving the Herald as editor in chief, Menzies, has been best known as a right-wing bloviator and Conservative appointee to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. He is described on his on-line biography as "an accomplished writer and cultural thinker."

-    Bill Smith, Alberta Progressive Conservative Association president, who nowadays is most often stuck with the job of commenting on investigations into political donations to the Alberta PCs.

-    Stefan Spargo, a candidate who flies an Alberta flag on his house. Like Lord, Spargo tried and failed to get the provincial PC nomination in Calgary-Currie. He flies an Alberta flag on his house. Plays soccer. Also flies an Alberta flag on his house. Click here for a video of an Alberta flag flying on Mr. Spargo's house.

-    Kate Thrasher, Conservative Party insider, owner of a public relations firm and in 1989 unsuccessful PC candidate in the provincial riding of Calgary-Buffalo.

Now, many Canadians may find this level of interest in a mere nomination, well, unusual…. After all, folks from away and newcomers to Alberta are typically astonished to learn elections in these parts are most often foregone conclusions.

This is especially frustrating to the supporters of political philosophies other than the various streams of conservative thought that that muddy the political waters around here. And when we do have anything other than our usual conservative electoral dysfunction to get excited about, it usually turns out to be short lived and disappointing.

But, hey, this is Alberta! After a while most of us get used to the disappointment and make a hobby out of observing the intricacies of Alberta Conservative culture as if we were amateur anthropologists studying the customs of a primitive tribe -- which, come to think of it, may be just what we are!

The thing to remember is, in Alberta, it's the nomination battles that count -- and that are most interesting to watch.

In this one, the lately departed Richardson was one of last of the Progressive Conservatives in Ottawa, those positive-minded descendants of the Tories of yore. This is doubtless part of why he chose to give up the perks of membership in Canada's most exclusive electoral club. As a legacy PC in Harper's dour CPC Ottawa, he was none too popular with the sourpuss ideologues that nowadays dominate the federal Conservative Party.

Well, that’s 12 candidates to replace him … 13 if you count Corrie Adolph, the unsuccessful Wildrose candidate in Calgary-Currie. Yesterday afternoon Adolph had a statement on her website saying she would not seek the CPC nomination in Calgary Centre. This morning, it's gone -- along with everything else on the site.

Given the size of the field, there may be others too, and readers are encouraged to add their own rumours, suggestions, sightings and commentary.

Oh yeah. Don't forget the other parties will field candidates too.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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