In a surprise finish, underdog Alison Redford captured the leadership of Alberta's governing Progressive Conservative party. Redford will become the first female Premier in Alberta's history.
In a late-night vote count, Alison Redford has won the race to become the next leader of the Progressive Conservative (PC) party in Alberta, Canada, and will become the province's first female Premier after the resignation of current Premier Ed Stelmach.
Former health minister Gary Mar, also the former Washington envoy for Alberta, was long projected to be the favourite to win the leadership. But a combination of factors worked against him in the lead-up to the vote on Saturday that was not decided until after 1:00 am, Sunday morning.
Under the preferential ballot system the PC's use to choose their party leader, Mar captured over 42 per cent of the vote on the first ballot, compared to Redford's 37.1 per cent. But when the third place candidate, former Deputy Premier Doug Horner was eliminated from the race and the second place votes re-distributed, Redford emerged with 37,104 votes to Mar's 35,491, according to the Winnipeg Free Press.
"Today, Alberta voted for change," Redford told supporters. "Make no mistake, we are going to do things differently. Over the last eight month we have opened the door for all Albertans to participate in our party and they did that today," reported the Free Press.
The second factor that helped Redford, a 46-year old rookie member of the Alberta legislature, was the presence of Stephen Carter, the man responsible for helping Naheed Nenshi get elected as Calgary's first Muslim mayor. Carter hoped to create what he called "hyper-engaged" voters - voters who use social media to share their intentions and opinions with vast online audiences, as opposed to smaller personal circles.
According to the Free Press, Redford, with Carter's help, began "reaching over the heads of traditional power brokers to create a tidal wave of popular support through social media."
"The campaign eschewed traditional partisan left-right political labels and focused on Redford's ideas and personality. Carter called it a more humanistic approach, selling the Alison Redford story to community leaders and citizens."
Redford's election, coming on the heels of the Nenshi's election in Calgary (another conservative city in Alberta), speaks to the power of social media to connect politicians with people during an election. While money - and lots of it - still grease an election's wheels, it would appear that money is no longer the only x factor in getting elected. Voters seem to want to know more about their candidate as a human being, and not simply as a party member.
Just ask Gary Mar. The Free Press reports that Mar had, by far, the largest war chest of any of the candidates, and enjoyed the support of the vast majority of cabinet ministers and caucus members in the current PC government. He toured the province in a campaign bus for months leading up to the election to meet with voters. But in the end, it simply wasn't enough.
"My sense over the campaign was that we were talking about issues that mattered to families, and those are certainly the issues that matter to women," Redford told CTV's Question Period. "If that was the case then I am proud of that; it is important to engage people."
Redford will be sworn in as Alberta's 14th Premier when Stelmach steps down.