Alberta legislature member Ken Hughes first in the race for premier, leader of Tories

The race to become Alberta’s 16th premier has its first entrant.

The race to become Alberta’s 16th premier has its first entrant.

Pledging to be a “no nonsense, common sense” party helmsman, Ken Hughes put his name forward Friday to succeed Alison Redford, who stepped down as premier last month amid expense controversies and a burgeoning caucus revolt. Edmonton MLA Dave Hancock is serving as interim premier until the Progressive Conservatives choose their next leader in September.

A former energy minister and, most recently, municipal affairs minister, Hughes forfeited his seat in cabinet on Monday to enable his candidacy.

Speaking to about 30 supporters in Red Deer as part of a five-community tour Friday, the Calgary MLA said he believes the PC legacy can endure despite its recent negative press.

“My leadership will be about trust — the trust I place in my team, the trust they place in me, the rebuilding of the trust that Albertans deserve to place in their government,” said Hughes, 60.

In his campaign literature, Hughes plays up the fact that he has only been a provincial politician for the last two years — to go along with one term in Ottawa as a Mulroney-era MP — and that he has spent most of the last two decades outside of politics. In 2002, Hughes and wife Denise founded an insurance company that now has offices across the province.

“I’ve been in government for two years, so I understand and I have relationships around that caucus table, but I also bring a different perspective and a willingness to challenge some of the circumstances that may need to be challenged,” he said.

Hughes said he has support within the current crop of MLAs and “a very respectful relationship with all members of caucus.”

At least six sitting MLAs are rumoured to be mulling their own bids.

Red Deer North MLA Mary Anne Jablonski spoke in support of Hughes at the Red Deer event, but said she will decide on who to officially endorse when the slate of candidates is finalized.

A father to three teenagers, Hughes was the founding chair of Alberta Health Services in 2008. He holds a bachelor’s degree in agriculture, and a master’s in public administration from Harvard University.

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