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Editorial: Nenshi running a mixed blessing for NDP

Nenshi has name recognition, but he is going to need a lot more than that to help break the NDP into more rural ridings. 
Naheed Nenshi announced he was running for Alberta NDP leadership last week.

The fact that former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi threw his hat in the ring to run for the Alberta NDP leadership this week is a mixed blessing for the party.

On the one hand, Nenshi is highly respected in many quarters, and was a popular mayor of Calgary when in office.

On the other hand, Nenshi does come with some baggage from his time in office and has a much lower profile in rural areas of the province.

However, as a recent Eagle poll suggests, many people at least know his name, and that automatically gives him a profile advantage over his other opponents. 

Who else is running for NDP leader again? You might get Kathleen Ganley, but the profile field thins considerably from there. 

So Nenshi at least has name recognition, but he is going to need a lot more than that to break into the rural ridings. 

This fact was even acknowledged by Highwood NDP constituency association president Sheila Stacy this week in an interview with Great West Media. After praising Nenshi for his political acumen, Stacy then went on to say:

"He (Nenshi) is quite known and he is associated with an urban vibe. An academic, urban mayor, how does he plan to connect with rural voters, who have traditionally not always connected with urban perspectives and urban issues? That brings some preconceived notions."

While this perception does pose a challenge for Nenshi, it could be easily argued that the NDP brand as a whole has the same problem in Alberta.

The party recorded historic gains in metro Calgary last election, but still failed to break into rural Alberta in any significant way.

It’s a problem the NDP is going to have to solve if it ever wants to sit in government again. 


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