By GILLIAN SLADE on April 25, 2019.
Peter Mueller, NDP candidate in the provincial election, says being a first-time candidate was exhausting and he didn’t appreciate the requirement to strictly adhere to following the party’s line.
Mueller says he found following only the party script meant he was in danger of losing his own identity, and it was something the public picked up on.
“I think I’ve learned not to be put in someone else’s box. I must be in control of my words, my vision and purpose,” said Mueller.
When submitting to a party a candidate loses some of that, he explained.
“Maybe a little too much,” said Mueller.
Being an election candidate was completely new with plenty of unexpected expectations, said Mueller. He said it was daunting for a first-time candidate with limited local leadership to provide guidelines on where to go, what to do and where to be seen in the campaign.
Mueller says he had no knowledge of how to go about establishing a campaign team until the NDP head office sent an official to Medicine Hat with a plan of action. After that, signs were done, volunteers came on board, donations came in and people were offering to help.
There were plenty of “backgrounders” provided from the party offering plenty of information. Mueller says there was even a day of training in Calgary with about 30 others.
“It was well organized with lots of rich information,” said Mueller.
This was all positive but Mueller says he had a tight script to follow.
“I was discouraged from forming my own opinion but rather use the party’s platform,” said Mueller, who felt the more he repeated the script the more it seemed to lack conviction and authenticity.
He says he understands why parties need some control to avoid candidates embarrassing the party from what Danielle Smith, former leader of Wildrose, called “bozo eruptions.”
He says “job one” for the party was to ask people to compare the leaders of the NDP and UCP parties.
“People got annoyed,” said Mueller, noting it became too negative.
Mueller said he would try to take a positive approach but it only took one item in the media about UCP leader Jason Kenney to provoke questions from the public and it was easy to get sucked into the negative side again.
For 28 days from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week, Mueller was campaigning – often without any breaks during the day.
Mueller sums it up in one word: “Exhausting.”
There were ups and downs during the campaign, he said; he felt great when encouraged by supporters, but there were plenty of negative comments, too, which were draining, said Mueller.
Would he run again? Initially, said Mueller, he was sure it was an experience he would not want to repeat, but second thoughts have since crept in. He says he learned plenty about himself, about people, and how government works.
He believes if he really wanted to have a significant impact in the next election he would have to remain the NDP candidate for the next four years.
“If you want to do a good job you’d have to do that,” said Mueller.
The News reached out to the NDP headquarters for comment on the challenges the party and its candidates faced. There was no response by the press deadline.