By the end of the week, the provincial Conservatives will have the leadership race they deliberately avoided the last time out. That’s the one that ended with the Coleman fiasco.
It will be different in at least two ways: first, there will actually be a race, in the sense that there will be three competitors. Second, unless someone shows up who no one has even whispered about yet, the race will be comprised entirely of party insiders.
Last time out, if you can cast your mind back three or four months, people like Steve Kent – who will launch his campaign on Thursday – insisted that the party needed a fresh face from outside the circle of people running the party from the inside.
What you can take from the new round of the race is confirmation that the “outsider” theme was just part of the scheme that the Conservatives were trying to foist on the people of the province. They didn’t want a race or even a plausible leader. They just wanted someone to front the operation and Frank Coleman was it.
Well, Coleman was it, until he decided the job was something he didn’t want to do.
Now, circumstances have put Steve Kent, John Ottenheimer, and Paul Davis into a run at the party leadership and the Premier’s Office where neither of them wanted to be a few months ago.
Davis and Kent plan to launch their campaigns at supper time, trying to capture live television coverage. That will only work with NTV since CBC’s coverage is frigged up by the World Cup telecasts from Brazil. They might gain some TV but they are missing some other media coverage by going so late in the day. If this was 15 or 20 years ago, the tactic might make sense but these days, it seems a little old fashioned. Let’s hope they both have a killer kick-off: if they flub this the whole campaign will be dead.
That’s especially true for Davis. He’s the de facto front-runner, if for no other reason than he has considerably stronger cabinet experience than either of the other two. He needs to nail the opening with a good launch, have some new ideas, and line up a chunk of caucus early to cement himself in place. That will give him a head-start on delegates, the key to any delegated convention.
Ottenheimer is the candidate everyone is scratching their head over: why is he doing this? Ottenheimer’s well beyond his prime in several respects and hardly brings with him the sense of freshness and a change of direction. He’s very much the man to keep things as they are, which is exactly where the Conservatives don’t need to go. For all that, his long service might win Ottenheimer some friends and draw some older delegate support to put him in second place behind Davis.
The lightweight in all this is Kent. He has very limited experience in doing anything other than self-promotion. Kent needs to show some gravitas but that’s unlikely given that he has been relentless superficial and fluffy in just about everything he’s done in politics.. which would be his entire adult life. The early support of the equally insubstantial David Brazil doesn’t bolster his cred. Kent will be a master of Twitter but without lots of caucus support and lots of organization, he won’t stand a chance against the other two.
The wild card in all this could be Susan Sullivan. She’s got plenty of experience in some big portfolios and she presents well. If she ran, Sullivan’s standing as the only woman in the race could pull lots of attention and thereby give her a chance to win over some people who aren’t familiar with her yet.
Unfortunately for the Conservatives, it looks like Sullivan won’t run. Someone should sit her down and have a serious talk to her. With the right handling, Sullivan could demolish the other three in short order and make Kathy Dunderdale’s disastrous ministry disappear from the public consciousness.