Elise Stolte: She's 'tough' — Election keeners describe how they see the race for mayor

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Know who really matters in the mayor’s race at this point? The election keeners.

Sure, name recognition for a star candidate is important. But no one raises an army of volunteers without first inspiring a couple diehard believers. Politics is a team sport.

That’s why in a survey posted to both the Edmonton Journal and Edmonton Sun webpages last week, we asked early supporters to describe their favourite candidate in three or four words. More than 1,100 Edmonton residents played along. Then I called several just to flesh out the ideas.

Here is the race through the eyes of those supporters.

Amarjeet Sohi

For many, former Liberal cabinet minister and city councillor Amarjeet Sohi stands out as the most experienced candidate, and one with a reputation as a bridge builder, a collaborator. He seems to inspire based on his personality more than his politics; supporters call him compassionate, hard-working and humble.


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He’s also benefiting from a Mike Nickel backlash, people turned off when Nickel blocks them on social media, posts simplistic memes and acts aggressively toward other candidates. Many of Sohi’s supporters praised his experience and bashed the Nickel campaign in the same sentence.

Supporter/donor Ben Angus: “It’s trustworthiness. With Sohi, if you look on Twitter you have people from a bunch of political stripes happy with Sohi running and speaking about his character.”

Mike Nickel

Nickel supporters are keen on fiscal responsibility and common sense. They see him as someone who will stand up to special interest groups, who is “anti-woke.”

His antagonism doesn’t seem to turn them off. A couple acknowledged that reputation but said it meant he’ll stand up to “the left.” They believe he’ll reduce taxes, and is honest, pragmatic and conservative.

Nickel is also benefiting from a Sohi backlash. Some supporters dislike Sohi’s former association with the federal Liberals and are angry he served only part of his final term on council before heading to Ottawa.

Supporter/volunteer John Wetterstrand: “The number one thing for me is limited government. I’m fundamentally conservative. Someone who doesn’t have an unscratchable itch to spend a lot of money, that’s a pretty attractive idea for me.”

Cheryll Watson 

The big word for Cheryll Watson’s supporters is “innovation.” That’s not surprising considering her background as founder of Innovate Edmonton. They’re inspired by someone they see as a leader who will listen and collaborate, someone with strength and authenticity who will support business and is not distracted by politicking.


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Supporter Gaian Helmers: “There’s something to be said about the sensitivity of a woman. Especially in a position where you’ve got something to prove, you’re doing your best, you’re working really hard. That’s something we need right now.”

Kim Krushell

Krushell’s supporters paint her as smart, fair and tough, not afraid to make a hard call if it’s best for the city. They see her as a centrist with a business focus, someone with a sense of balance and common sense. Many supporters referenced her time as a city councillor, saying Edmonton needs someone who is level-headed and with experience.

Supporter Miles Quon: “It’s a good balance and she makes those tough calls, like the City Centre Airport closing.”

Michael Oshry

Oshry’s supporters are looking for economic recovery and someone to reign in spending. Smart and experienced are top words, as they were for Krushell. The words used for these two candidates overlap quite a bit.

In both, people see support for business. But Oshry’s supporters also use words such as focus and vision.

Supporter Jef Knoll: “(When Oshry was on council), there was never a point in time when I thought, this guy doesn’t know what he’s doing.”

Diana Steele

Steele is another candidate where supporters talk about personality over politics. They talk about her being kind, honest, empathetic and non-partisan. She comes into the race with less name recognition than others but still made it past our cutoff of having at least 30 supporters submit a description. She’s the president of the Crestwood Community League in west Edmonton.


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Supporter/donor April Halliday: “She’s selfless; she just gives and gives. … She’s constantly out there running fundraisers, handing out jackets to homeless people when it’s cold. She’s just a really humble, hard-working regular person.”

So there you have it, from the mouths of those who believe in them.

Also running are Abdul Malik Chukwudi, Rick Comrie, Brian Gregg and Augustine Marah but I didn’t get enough information from supporters to describe them.

But back to those election keeners. They’re really carrying the election forward; it’s not hyperbole to call them the backbone of democracy. They give money, help strategize, answer phones, deliver flyers. Without them, an election would be pretty quiet. We wouldn’t have this chance for a big citywide debate about where Edmonton is going.

So a shout-out to them, and may the best team win.



CANDIDATES: We want to hear from all registered candidates for the Edmonton Election 2021. Please fill out this short survey with your contact information and personal background to help us include your campaign in our upcoming coverage.

Word clouds describing the mayoral candidates


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