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Monday, 30 April 2012 08:32

Len Mitzel surprised by Wildrose win

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Cypress-Medicine Hat Conservative candidate Len Mitzel reacts to as election results roll in at this campaign office. Cypress-Medicine Hat Conservative candidate Len Mitzel reacts to as election results roll in at this campaign office. Southern Alberta Newspapers Photo by Ian Sorensen

No one was likely more surprised by the results streaming in on election night than Cypress-Medicine Hat Progressive Conservative candidate Len Mitzel.

The former MLA who served two terms in office, was defeated by newcomer Wildrose candidate Drew Barnes and the race wasn’t close.
Mitzel was first elected in 2004 with 55 per cent of the vote and then returned to power again in 2008 with even more support —  63 per cent. The tide turned against Mitzel this go-round and he garnered only 4,737 votes compared to 7,112 for Barnes.
“Yes, I was surprised,” said Mitzel, in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon, the day after the election, about the results. “I thought it was going to be close. I was surprised at the spread.”
Before entering provincial politics, Mitzel served on the County of Forty Mile for 15 years — 12 of which were as the reeve. He also sat on the former board for the Palliser Health Region.
As he was campaigning, Mitzel said he was feeling good. Although he didn’t knock on every door, the ones he did hit had residents who were supportive or undecided about who they would choose on election day. Mitzel wondered if it was those people who were undecided who determined his fate.
Now, in light of the fact he wasn’t re-elected, he will finish off some of his obligations before taking a break to decide what to do next.
He wonders what the future of southeast Alberta will be like now for the first time since the 1960s a representative from this corner of the province won’t sit on the governing side of the house. Mitzel maintains southeast Alberta isn’t the forgotten corner and if residents will take stock of the projects and events that have happened or will happen they’ll see the moniker doesn’t fit.
He also hopes residents, especially farmers and ranchers, will remember all he has done to benefit them, not only as an MLA but also a county councillor. He cited examples including a drought in 2001 when he convinced the agricultural minister to visit the area and provide $10 per acre; lobby work when BSE hit the ranching community particularly hard; having fire insurance included with forage insurance after a particularly dry year; and in 2009 helping convince crop insurance officials and government drought assistance was necessary for extreme cases where only weeds were growing in areas where it showed up on satellite as green so it didn’t qualify for funding.
“I think they forgot the work I did,” said Mitzel. 
“I’m thinking of the ranchers who are strongly opposed to this government and to me.”
Mitzel said he won’t even mention the work he’s done to further education, transportation, children’s services, seniors’ services and tourism initiatives in southeast Alberta.
“I got such a thrill out of being able to accomplish something. I loved doing it and I wanted to keep doing it.”
Provincially, Mitzel was pleased to see the PCs retain a large majority of the seats — 61 in total.
“I was absolutely thrilled to see that,” he added.
“The polls were wrong. They were very, very wrong. All the predictions by the media that were made, they were wrong as well. I guess it shows you can’t believe the polls. The only poll that counts is the one on voting day.”

Read 5542 times Last modified on Monday, 30 April 2012 08:39
Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor