The 2013 Red Deer mayoral race has begun not with a bang, but a whimper.
Two candidates have announced their intention to replace Mayor Morris Flewwelling, who is stepping down at the end of his current term after 21 years in politics.
Neither of them is very compelling when stacked up against the outgoing mayor.
Matt Chapin, a 26-year-old student, ran for mayor in 2007. He received a total of 559 votes. His campaigns for city council and Red Deer Public School District board trustee in 2010 also failed to connect with voters.
Chad Mason, a 26-year-old accountant, is a newcomer to municipal politics. Cut from the same fiscal cloth as Coun. Chris Stephan, Mason has served on the Wildrose Party constituency board for Red Deer North since 2010 and helped out during the last provincial election. He talks about bike lanes, snow removal and lower taxes, but his resume is light on political experience.
Other potential candidates appear content to sit on the sidelines for now.
Veteran councillors Cindy Jefferies and Tara Veer are widely expected to enter the mayoral race. Jefferies says she will announce her intentions next month. Veer says it’s too early to start talking about the next election.
Could Mary Anne Jablonski give the race the spark it needs?
Rumour has it the MLA for Red Deer North is thinking about leaving provincial politics to run for the mayor’s seat.
Red Deer residents could do a lot worse for candidates than Jablonski, who was first elected to the Alberta legislature in 2000.
A political veteran, Jablonski would shake up the establishment at City Hall. Representing the city on the provincial stage would give her a unique perspective on the city’s goals and the best way to get there.
Jablonski’s understanding of provincial politics and her connections in that arena would also be an asset as the city moves forward with projects that require provincial support, such as a new courthouse.
She wouldn’t be the first MLA to make the jump to municipal politics.
When Lacombe-Stettler MLA Judy Gordon became disenchanted with provincial politics in 2004 after serving three terms in the Alberta legislature, she re-entered the municipal arena with great success. In 2004, she dumped then mayor Bill McQuesten, and she was acclaimed in 2007.
Jablonski said last week that, while she had not made a decision, it was “highly unlikely” that she would run for mayor. Never say never, she added, but she was committed to her job as MLA for Red Deer North.
Nobody is questioning Jablonski’s commitment to the constituents. What is more difficult to ignore is that the mayor’s job comes at a time when Jablonski’s provincial aspirations appear to have stalled.
While the political fortunes of her counterpart in Red Deer South, Cal Dallas, have soared under Premier Alison Redford, Jablonski’s have soured.
Minister of Seniors and Community Supports under former premier Ed Stelmach, Jablonski was relegated to the backbenches by Redford. Barring a dramatic reversal of fortune, her station is unlikely to change any time soon.
Jablonski has tried to stay busy. Her private member’s bill, The Irlen Syndrome Testing Act, passed first reading, but failed to pass before the current sitting ended on Thursday.
Jablonski cares a great deal about the issue — her nine-year-old grandson has been diagnosed with the syndrome — and she is vowing to bring the bill back in the spring.
But political reality paints a darker picture. Most private member’s bills are doomed from the start, and Jablonski’s probably won’t fare much better in the spring session.
The 2013 Red Deer mayoral race comes at a critical time for the city. There is no incumbent, which means Red Deer residents need quality candidates who can articulate their visions for the city.
If Jablonski is serious about serving people, she has a better chance of doing that as mayor than languishing in the backbenches in the legislature in Edmonton.
Mary Anne Jablonski would be a credible candidate for mayor.
Cameron Kennedy is an Advocate editor.