Anyone who thinks that the UCP is going to automatically sweep the Lethbridge ridings must be new to Lethbridge. Here’s why:
First, Shannon Phillips won the riding in 2015 with the popular vote. Not only did more people vote for her than any other single candidate, but the majority of the voters in the riding voted for her.
Phillips won 60% of the vote. The PCs won 21% of the vote, and the Wildrose won 16% of the vote. Combined, the predecessors of the UCP won only 37% of the vote, nearly half of what Phillips took home.
Second, at 48%, Maria Fitzpatrick didn’t win the popular vote, but she came pretty close. The PC candidate took 25%, and Wildrose took 21%, a combined 46%. Not only did she beat out both parties, but she beat out their combined results, although just barely.
Third, Lethbridge East hasn’t voted in a conservative candidate in 30 years. Well, unless you count Bridget Pastoor, who was elected Liberal then crossed the floor to the PCs. But she was an incumbent.
Which brings me to my fourth point: Lethbridge loves incumbents. Lethbridge East hasn’t voted out an incumbent since 1975. In Lethbridge West, Greg Weadick was the first incumbent voted out in at least 50 years.
Federally, Lethbridge has voted in their incumbent in every election since 1958. In the last 20 years, only 4 incumbents have been voted out of municipal office, out of 42 total incumbents during that period.
A recent Lethbridge College poll showed the UCP leading in Lethbridge, which gets UCP supporters excited, but something to remember is that 1 in 5 respondents in that poll said they were undecided. UCP led the NDP in that poll by less than 20%, so theoretically, those undecided supporters could easily push the NDP over the UCP.
For the UCP to win in Lethbridge, they’ll have to work hard for it. They aren’t guaranteed a win; and even if they do win, it won’t be a strong win. And maybe Jason Kenney realizes this. After all, he spent his first full day of campaigning here.
It sure is nice to have politicians paying attention to Lethbridge finally. Even if it’s only once every 4 years.