Labour and Immigration Minister Kaycee Madu is the latest to endorse Smith, who is widely considered a frontrunner in the UCP leadership race. Madu announced his endorsement at a rally in Edmonton on Thursday, a day before the membership deadline.
Smith also recently received endorsements from Service Alberta Minister Nate Glubish and former cabinet minister Devin Dreeshen. Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn, along with a few backbenchers, also endorsed Smith’s campaign.
Notably, Glubish and Rehn switched loyalties from former finance minister Travis Toews’ campaign.
Duane Bratt, a political scientist and a professor at Mount Royal University, said MLAs are endorsing her because she is the front runner and people are “bandwagoning.”
“That’s the simplest explanation when you look at it, but they all have baggage, Dreeshen and Madu in particular,” Bratt said.
“You have people leaving Toews’ team because they joined his team when they thought he was going to win, and now the front runner is here.”
Bratt noted that Smith’s recent wave of endorsements has largely helped her because it continues the narrative that she is winning.
However, endorsements may not be a good indicator of who may win the UCP leadership race. Toews still has 21 endorsements, including Justice Minister Tyler Shandro and Women’s Status Associate Minister Whitney Issik.
“Endorsements sometimes work and they sometimes don’t… It comes down to timing. It’s when you get the endorsements and how you get the endorsements,” he said.
Bratt also said MLAs may be endorsing her for their own personal benefit.
“I don’t think these endorsements are designed to help Smith. I think (the MLAs) are helping themselves by getting on her good side while they can,” Bratt said.
Next month is crucial for UCP leadership candidates
The next month will be the busiest and most important period for candidates as they continue to push for more support.
Matt Solberg, a partner for New West Public Affairs and a former government staffer, said candidates will try to pull supporters from other campaigns.
“We are entering a period where you can go and try to persuade members who have signed up for another campaign to come and support yours. A sign of that has been some of the changing endorsements,” Solberg told Global News during a Thursday interview.
“While the total number of people who can vote will be fixed, who those people vote for will not be. The game is on.”
Solberg also said this push will be extremely important because of the preferential ballots, meaning UCP members can rank their preferred leader in order.
If no candidate receives a majority of first-place votes, the party will rely on second-, third- and fourth-place support to determine the winner.
“The second and third ballot support could very well be what elects the next leader,” Solberg said.