Wednesday was deadline day for those seeking to be the next leader of Alberta’s United Conservatives and most of the contestants have already filed their applications.
The cutoff was 5 p.m. for applicants to submit a package of forms and consent documents along with at least 1,000 signatures from across Alberta and at least $75,000 towards the entry fee and good behaviour deposit.
Three of the nine applicants — Travis Toews, Danielle Smith and Brian Jean — have already had their applications formally accepted by the UCP.
Rajan Sawhney, Rebecca Schulz, Todd Loewen and Leela Aheer say they have submitted the required number of signatures and are waiting to be confirmed as candidates.
Sawhney and Schulz both stepped out of Premier Jason Kenney’s cabinet to run, while Aheer is in the UCP caucus and Loewen is a party member but sits in the house as an Independent.
One other candidate, one-time legislature member Raj Sherman, was still scrambling to get the required minimum 1,000 signatures from supporters moments before the deadline.
Just before 6 p.m., he tweeted that he submitted the required signatures just before the deadline passed.
As of Wednesday evening, it was still not clear if Sherman could run for the leadership because he has only been a UCP member since May. The party’s leadership rules outline that to be an eligible leadership contestant, a person must be a party member for at least six months prior to the deadline for applications.
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Sherman has previously said he requested a waiver from the UCP in order to run for the leadership position. He says his initial request was refused but he plans to “earn their trust and respect.”
Former investment banker Jon Horsman announced on Wednesday afternoon that he is dropping out of the race.
“While we are on track to meet the requirements of today’s deadline, it is a very crowded leadership race and having one more does not serve the purpose of why I decided to run — which was to contribute to the success of the conservative movement in Alberta by growing the moderate and inclusive base for the party,” Horsman said in a statement.
“I entered the race to refresh the conversation, to contribute a vision for the future of Alberta and to bring my experience to bear on Alberta politics.”
Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt believes the party set the threshold for the leadership race high for a reason.
“The party doesn’t want nine (candidates),” he said.
Candidates will still need to be approved after being interviewed by the party, and Bratt doesn’t think everyone will get through.
“I think the party is terrified of disunity and they felt that the smaller the pool, the less of a chance of it splintering after the fact.”
On Oct. 6, the party is to pick a replacement for Premier Jason Kenney, who announced in May that he was leaving the top job after receiving 51 per cent support in a party leadership review.
— with files from Global News’ Caley Gibson and Phil Heidenreich