Tuesday, August 03, 2010

This Week in Calgary: Barb Higgins Jumps Into the Field

At this point, it might be easier to report on who isn't running for Mayor of Calgary, because a very crowded field has yet another contender:

Calling herself a fiscal conservative, long-time CTV news anchor Barb Higgins announced Wednesday she's joining the race to become Calgary's next mayor.

"I have researched and written the news but I've had to stay neutral and I have made the decision to jump into municipal politics because I don't want to stay neutral anymore," she announced to reporters gathered in a hotel ballroom.

"We have a great city, a well-run city, but new thinking will only come from new people."

Despite earlier denials about her mayoral intentions, Higgins said she only started seriously exploring her candidacy two weeks ago. She abruptly resigned last week from the Calgary CTV News at 6 anchor desk she shared with co-host Darrel Janz for 21 years.

Depending on how you define "credible", there are now up to a dozen credible candidates in the field. On name recognition alone, Higgins and Alderman Ric McIver are clearly out in front of the pack (it's far too early to talk about committed support in polls). While The race won't heat up until after Labour Day, the next month will be critical for the 10 men in that pack, since it's unlikely more than 1 or 2 of them will be able to break free and give the front runners a run. I'd expect a few of them to drop out if they feel they're not gaining traction.

If none of them do break free, then a Higgins-McIver race would be an intriguing contest. McIver has been running for at least 5 years, so he's got the money and volunteers in place. Right wing groups in Calgary will line up behind him, but that certainly doesn't guarantee anything in a city which, counter intuitively, tends to elect Liberal mayors.

Higgins is better known than anyone else in the race, yet she remains the election's biggest unknown. She's a late comer to the contest, it's unclear what kind of organization she has (there are rumours of Rob Love being involved), and she's untested in the political arena. No one really knows where she sits on the political spectrum, though her first press conference suggests the campaign may turn into her defending Bronconnier's record, while McIver attacks it.

As they say, there's still a lot of baseball to be played. But Higgins' entry is a curve ball that has completely changed the dynamics of this race.

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