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Alberta Party candidate Sue Huff is running in Edmonton-Glenora, one of the ridings the fledgling centrist party has high hopes in. (Jason Franson for The Globe and Mail)
Alberta Party candidate Sue Huff is running in Edmonton-Glenora, one of the ridings the fledgling centrist party has high hopes in. (Jason Franson for The Globe and Mail)

Alberta Party doing just fine, says Alberta Party Add to ...

The election battle between Alberta's Wildrose Party and the Progressive Conservatives has marginalized other parties, leaving the Liberals and NDP battling for attention.

Then there's the Alberta Party.

The centrist upstart has struggled for any attention amid its fifth-party status in Alberta's provincial race, but has high hopes in a handful of ridings. Starved for publicity, they've taken to making their own.

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“Local polls show we are in a dead heat for first place,” Alberta Party candidate Michael Walters told supporters this week, citing anonymous sources. The tactic, combined with a blitz last Sunday that saw over 100 volunteers fan out door-knocking in Mr. Walters' south Edmonton riding, is a plain publicity strategy – but it's not necessarily false. Mr. Walters is nevertheless more contender than afterthought in his riding of Edmonton-Rutherford, despite his party's low provincial profile.

He's running against incumbent Tory Health Minister Fred Horne in a riding Mr. Horne won away from the Liberals four years ago. Mr. Horne has said in interviews that he's not worried, but Mr. Walters believes he's got a shot.

“We're telling people we're in the race. We're telling them we're right there and we have a chance to make history Monday,” Mr. Walters said by phone Saturday. “Now it's all get-out-the-vote. And we do believe the race is between me and Fred at this point.”

Rick Miller, the Liberal who held the seat from 2004 to 2008 and is running again, would surely dispute that. A group encouraging strategic voting has endorsed him as the best non-conservative option. “Many progressives in Aspen Gardens are upset with [the Alberta Party]for further splitting the progressive vote,” Mr. Miller wrote on Twitter recently, referring to Mr. Walters' home neighbourhood.

Nonetheless, the riding is one of a few the Alberta Party has high hopes in. The others include Edmonton-Glenora, where former Alberta Party interim leader Sue Huff is running against incumbent Tory cabinet minister Heather Klimchuk; West Yellowhead, a sprawling riding including Alberta Party Leader Glenn Taylor's hometown of Hinton where he hopes to knock off an incumbent Tory (but is facing an uphill battle in Edson, one of the riding's four main communities, where people see it as a Wildrose-PC race); and in Calgary Elbow, PC Leader Alison Redford's own riding.

“I'm not going to Joe Namath-you and guarantee a victory by any stretch, but we're going to surprise some people,” said Greg Clark, the Alberta Party candidate in Calgary-Elbow.

Elbow is a progressive riding where the Wildrose has run a strong campaign under candidate James Cole and the Liberals have barely bothered, nominating a candidate at the last moment. Mr. Clark hopes to snap up centrist votes and woo over progressives from Wildrose who oppose the PCs. “I honestly have swayed more Wildrose voters, I think, than I have PC voters,” said Mr. Clark, an IT consultant.

Mr. Cole, meanwhile, is an early Wildrose supporter who said Ms. Redford's status as Premier convinced him to run. “That, for me, was the deciding factor – to say the greatest contribution I can make for Wildrose now was being elected as the MLA for Calgary-Elbow,” said Mr. Cole, a chartered financial analyst.

The PCs have said they're confident Ms. Redford will hold her own riding, but Mark Lisac, editor of the Alberta political newsletter Insight Into Government, wrote this week that he wonders “why the media seems to take it as a given that Premier Alison Redford will win again in Calgary-Elbow.” She won the riding narrowly in 2008, before becoming Premier, and will spend election night in her riding.

“I, first and foremost, am running to be the MLA as Calgary-Elbow and I'm very proud of my constituency,” Ms. Redford said at a Calgary campaign stop Saturday. “I'm very excited by what we're hearing at the doors.”

The Alberta Party is essentially the Wildrose of the left – an upstart hoping to overtake the venerable parties who've long defined Alberta politics. They're long-shots, but Mr. Clark said they'll continue building the party whether it has a seat in the legislature or not.

“I don't think we're frustrated if we don't win any seats,” he said. The thing I admire most about the Alberta Party are the people in the Alberta Party, and we're in it for the long haul.”

Follow on Twitter: @josh_wingrove

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