Odds of a Naheed Nenshi ANDP leadership bid aren’t high—but they aren’t zero

Could former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi run for the leadership of the Alberta NDP? One of his closest friends and advisors is telling him to think about it. 

“Lots of people have been approaching Naheed about the idea of running for ANDP leader. He’s stated publicly he’s listening. Naheed and I have been best friends forever and I want him to think about it,” Chima Nkendrim told the Progress Report. 

Nkendrim was Nenshi’s chief of staff for seven of the 11 years Nenshi was Calgary’s mayor.

Sources have told us that Nenshi has told several friends and allies that there’s a “10 per cent chance” he could be convinced to run for the leadership of Alberta’s official opposition party. 

Nenshi would face some uphill battles to even get on the ballot. Nenshi has frequently expressed his dislike of party politics, which raises the question of if he even has an Alberta NDP membership Elections Alberta’s financial disclosure database shows no donations to the party from Nenshi. 

The Alberta NDP’s leadership rules state that you must have been a member since August 5, 2023 in order to run for leader this year. If you’re not a member you must make a special application that is subject to the “adjudication of the Leadership Race Approvals Committee.” Any potential leadership candidate going through this process “must intend, at all times during their participation in the leadership contest, to seek the leadership of the Alberta NDP in good faith with the goal of leading the party in a manner consistent with the values and principles of the Alberta NDP.”

If accepted into the race, Nenshi would also be subject to vetting, something he’s never had to go through before. Vetting is the process of your own party doing an opposition research check on you in an attempt to find all the embarrassing items that your political opponents might also dig up. 

The rules also state that Nenshi would have to keep mum and not speak out publicly about applying to run for leadership of the ANDP while his application is being considered. 

The nomination deadline for leadership candidates is March 15, 2024. If Naheed Nenshi really is going to enter this race, he’s going to need to sell a massive amount of Alberta NDP memberships and do so very soon. While the actual vote isn’t until June 22, the window for these membership sales closes on April 22. Unfortunately Nenshi did not respond to inquiries before publication. 

As of Dec 31. 2023 the ANDP reports that it has 16,224 members. We will be following the membership sales of all candidates closely as they should be a good indicator of who’s doing the most successful organizing. 

Presently Kathleen Ganley and Sarah Hoffman are in the race, and they are broadly expected to be joined by Rakhi Pancholi and David Shepherd. That would be a field entirely made up of current Alberta NDP caucus members. Naheed Nenshi, an outsider, would certainly shake things up. The question is: will that 10% chance become reality?