Paula Simons: Stephen Mandel looks for Alberta’s political sweet spot

“Oy,” says Stephen Mandel, easing himself onto the edge of a riser.

“I was playing tennis yesterday and I think I pulled a tushy muscle.”

It is a vintage Mandel moment. The naughty boy charm. The casual but careful reminder that while he may be 72, he’s still more than active. And the signature Yiddish slang. (In case you needed a translation, your tush, or your tuches, is what you’re sitting on. And I don’t mean your chair.)

Yes, it’s the Stephen Mandel Show, rebooted, as the former Edmonton mayor and former Progressive Conservative health minister sets out to reinvent himself yet again.

On Wednesday, Mandel gathered a diverse and multicultural group at the Boyle Street Community League to announce his bid to lead the Alberta Party.

They are clearly going for a “Street” graffiti aesthetic. @SMandel_AB @AlbertaParty #ableg #yeg

— Paula Simons (@Paulatics) January 10, 2018

Diverse, not just in ethnicity or age. There were former Progressive Conservatives, former Liberals, even a former Wildrose party operative or two. They’d gathered to hear Mandel pitch himself as the right guy to lead a non-ideological party, aiming for “the sweet spot in the middle.”

And while Mandel is the oldest candidate in the race, the campaign launch was about reaching out to millennials, from the hipster-street “faux graffiti” campaign signs, to the choice of the Imagine Dragons song Believer as his dance-to-the-podium soundtrack.

Mandel takes the stage…. while having a boogy. #ableg

— Emma Graney (@EmmaLGraney) January 10, 2018

As mayor, Mandel had a positive genius for building consensus, to charming — and occasionally strong-arming — councillors to vote with him. Witty, bright, mercurial, he could be warmly generous one moment and volcanically furious the next. Passion? Vision? They were never in short supply. With his profile and experience, he’s given the Alberta Party an instant shot of credibility, especially in Edmonton where the party has never gained much traction.

But Mandel is running, not just against the other leadership contenders, but against his own shadow.

When he retired as mayor, he was still hugely popular. That’s no easy trick — after three terms in office, most mayors have worn out their welcome.

Yet even Mandel’s municipal supporters were surprised when he was named to Jim Prentice’s Progressive Conservative cabinet, before he’d even run as an MLA. He won a quick byelection easily. But when Prentice swallowed up most of the Wildrose caucus, and then called a snap election, Mandel was among the Tories punished for their hubris. He lost Edmonton-Whitemud, collecting just 32 per cent of the vote.

He’s still facing a backlash, from people who see him as part as the crony-ridden old PC machine and from those who see him as a PC interloper trying to take over the Alberta Party.

It wasn’t very pleasant to lose his seat in 2015.

“People were very mad and frustrated. I know how angry they were. I was at the doors. You …read more

Source:: Edmonton Journal – Politics


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