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Tory pundit, local lawyer toss hats into ring for Calgary nomination

The rising sun reflects off downtown Calgary office towers in October of 2011.

Chris Bolin/chris bolin The Globe and Mail

A looming federal by-election in Alberta will be fought on the right as political hopefuls begin to emerge to contest the Conservative nomination in downtown Calgary.

Joan Crockatt, a former newspaper editor and oft-quoted political pundit, is the latest to declare her intention to succeed veteran MP Lee Richardson, who quit last month to work in the Alberta premier's office. Ms. Crockatt, who is an avid social-media user, turned to Twitter to spread the news.

"Happy to announce a BIG change: I am now a candidate for the Conser vative nomination in Calgary Centre. Please keep your tweets coming!" she wrote.

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On Friday, Calgary lawyer and a former director with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Andy Crooks, also threw his hat in the ring via Twitter.

"I want to contribute to a greater Canada for all; decided to run for the Conservatives in Calgary Centre," Mr. Crooks wrote.

Mr. Richardson gave up his longtime seat in Calgary Centre a few weeks ago to take up a plum posting – principal secretary – in Premier Alison Redford's office.

The vacant seat is considered safe for the Tories in true-blue Alberta, but it sparked a flurry of speculation in conservative circles about who will win the party nomination, not which party would win the riding.

Soon after Mr. Richardson's resignation, a Twitter account was set up to urge right-wing talk show host Ezra Levant to enter the race. But he promptly threw cold water on the notion.

The names of about a dozen possible candidates have been tossed around, including alderman John Mar, who was spotted this week having lunch at City Hall with campaign strategist Stephen Carter. Mr. Carter is credited with helping Naheed Nenshi become Calgary's mayor and Ms. Redford ascend to the premier's office.

Mr. Mar was not immediately available for comment, but in the past he has expressed his interest in federal politics.

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For his part, Mr. Carter would only say that he might be working on something with Mr. Mar. "Let's just say that I am motivated," he said.

Ms. Crockatt, a former managing editor of the Calgary Herald, will likely be regarded as the early front-runner.

In an interview, the 56-year-old married mother of two grown children described herself as a "social moderate" and a "really strong fiscal conservative." She said being a woman and an urbanite who is focused on the economy will help her campaign.

"I'm a real admirer of the federal agenda," Ms. Crockatt said, adding that while the economy isn't "sexy" what Prime Minister Stephen Harper is doing is important for the country.

Ms. Crockatt wouldn't say who is working on her campaign – that will come out soon – but added that running federally has long been on her mind.

"Politics has always been my first love," she said.

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Tory riding association president Glenn Solomon said while there are no official candidates, there have been "lots of inquiries" about the job.

"It's a good seat to hold," he said, "Our riding association has lots of members, lots of money, a good organization, a sophisticated electoral machine and it reflects peace in the valley among its members."

Despite those advantages and a political climate that generally favours the Conservatives, Mr. Solomon doesn't expect a cakewalk for the Tory candidate in the eventual by-election.

"Calgary Centre is actually a very centrist riding. I think it's open to anyone from a centrist party," he said. "... We actually have to work for it."

According to federal law, the earliest a by-election could be held is July 30. However, Mr. Harper could wait until early December to call it, which would push the by-election into the new year.

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About the Author
Dawn Walton

Dawn Walton has been based in Calgary for The Globe and Mail since 2000. Before leaving Toronto to head West, she won a National Newspaper Award and was twice nominated for the Michener Award for her work with the Report on Business. More

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