It won’t take long for the municipal race to heat up, say current members of council.
With 131 days to go before St. Albertans cast their ballot for a new mayor and council, only five people have officially put their names forward as potential candidates.
While this pales in comparison to the neighbouring municipalities of Sherwood Park, with 17 people publicly declaring their intent to run, Beaumont, with 14, and even Leduc, with nine, the city is actually ahead when compared to the 2013 election.
By this time last election, only two candidates had made public their intentions to run for council, as all incumbents held off announcing their decisions until mid-July.
So far, five people have filled out the necessary paperwork to begin collecting campaign contributions for October’s election, but only three have consented to publicly disclosing their intent to run: incumbent Cathy Heron and newcomers Natalie Joly and Craig Cameron.
Two other members of council, Bob Russell and Wes Brodhead, have indicated to the Gazette they will seek re-election, though they have yet to formally announce their campaigns.
According Brodhead, part of the delay could be due to financial considerations. Many candidates self-fund their campaigns, as there are no tax benefits to donating to a municipal campaign. Announcing closer to the nomination date of Sept. 18 could mean saving valuable advertising dollars for later in the campaign.
“Because once people start, everybody better be in the game, or your voice is lost,” he said.
Another factor that could be giving potential candidates pause is the heightened level of commitment. In 2012, the provincial government extended the length of municipal terms from three years to four.
“In talking to other councillors in the region, the four year commitment is certainly an issue,” said Coun. Tim Osborne, who previously told the Gazette he would not be seeking re-election.
On the other hand, changes to meeting start times – a recommendation by the council remuneration committee – could encourage more candidates to come forward, he said, by making it easier to balance part-time council responsibilities with other work commitments.
Mayor Nolan Crouse, who announced in January he would not seek re-election, said the pacing of the council race doesn’t surprise him.
Both he and Brodhead have had conversations with several interested parties and feel confident that a full slate of candidates will soon emerge.
Crouse did however express some concern over the delay in the mayoral race.
“If you’re going to door knock, we have 25,000 doors in the city. There’s a significant amount of door knocking ahead, as well as raising money,” he said.
By this time in 2013, Crouse had announced he would be running for a third term as mayor and Shelley Biermanski, who also challenged him in 2010, had launched her campaign.