Voters in the West Country stuck to their guns by choosing Wildrose again, dumping the incumbent who left the party late last year.
Jason Nixon will join 20 other Wildrose members in forming the official Opposition to the NDP majority provincial government that was elected on Tuesday night.
With all 83 polls reporting in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, Nixon had an unofficial count 6,670 votes, or 40.12 per cent. Progressive Conservative candidate Tammy Cote was the closest competitor with 5,296 votes, or 31.85 per cent. Hannah Schlamp, NDP, finished third with 2,789 votes, or 16.77 per cent, and incumbent Joe Anglin was a distant fourth with 1,871 votes, or 11.25 per cent.
A jubilant Nixon said he is most excited about the resurrection of the Wildrose, which almost ceased to exist.
“It was only a few months ago we were sitting in a motel room thinking our party was dead,” said Nixon. “Most pundits thought it was gone.
“I’m proud of my colleagues who were able to rally and find a new leader in time. Now we’re going to be able to form the official Opposition again and hold an NDP government to account.”
He had a tough nomination battle, going toe-to-toe with Anglin. At the time, Anglin was the Wildrose MLA for the riding.
“It feels good, we’re pretty excited,” said Nixon. “I think our general campaign was run well considering we didn’t have much notice.
“My biggest excitement for the night is we were able to save the Wildrose Party.”
Cote, a branch manager for Alberta Treasury Branch in Rocky Mountain House for 30 years, said she found the provincial results distressing.
“I’m shocked,” said Cote. “I am concerned, very concerned. I don’t think this is in our best interest at all. I’m concerned about small business and business in general. I’m concerned this is going to mean a lot of jobs lost.”
She said the race in her riding was about what she had anticipated, calling it a conservative stronghold.
“We ran a very clean race and worked really hard,” said Cote. “Of course I’m disappointed for my team, but I don’t think we have anything to hang our heads about, not in the least. We did exactly what we wanted to do.”
Turnout was about 52 per cent as 16,626 votes were cast. There are a total of 31,993 registered voters in the riding.
In 2012 Anglin, then a Wildrose candidate, won the riding by 1,502 votes, beating out PC Ty Lund, who had been an MLA since 1989.
Anglin quit the Wildrose on Nov. 2, 2014, and sat as an independent before the election was called.
Nixon won the Wildrose nominated in a hotly-contested battle with Anglin in June and July 2014, while Anglin was still the Wildrose MLA for the riding. In-fighting prefaced Anglin’s decision to leave the party.
Schlamp and Anglin did not respond to phone calls by deadline.