A candidate has yet to come forward to make a bid to become the next leader of the Alberta Liberals, but party faithful say there are at least two or three big names — and some have the political experience the job requires.
"These are people I would vote for in a heartbeat. These are people who are leaders who bring a lot of excitement," said Donna Wilson, a previous Liberal candidate in Edmonton-Whitemud, who didn't want to spoil anyone's announcement.
"I could see them becoming the premier someday. This is the kind of calibre that we've got."
The Alberta Liberals officially launched their 2017 leadership race Sunday at the Royal Glenora Club in Edmonton.
The party has been without a permanent leader since January 2015 when Raj Sherman left the post citing personal reasons.
In the May 2015 election, the only Liberal to get elected was David Swann in Calgary-Mountain View. He's been acting as interim leader.
Party president Karen Sevcik said they needed time to adjust to the realities of an NDP government after four decades of Progressive Conservative reign.
Sevcik said with the NDP on the left and the PCs inching even further right, it's a good time for the Liberals to pursue a centrist position under a new leader.
"We're looking for someone who's willing to work hard, who can relate to Albertans where they live and work," she said. "We're a pretty open party. We sit in the middle of the spectrum. We're looking forward to whoever comes forward."
'It's not an easy task'
Harpreet Gill ran for the Liberals in Edmonton-Mill Creek during the last provincial election.
"Traditionally, Liberals have fought hard to win in Alberta. It's not an easy task," Gill said, adding he plans to vie for the seat in his riding again.
But he's not interested in the party's top job.
Wilson is in the same boat, although she said if she were to get voted into the legislature, she might consider it.
The last time the Liberals had a major presence in Alberta was in 1993. They won 32 of the then 83 seats. Four years later, their representation was slashed when they only secured 18.
Wilson said the potential leadership candidates she knows of have worked behind the scenes for successful Liberal politicians and have held office before at another level of government.
"These are people who know how politics work," Wilson said.
It has been rumoured outgoing St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse could enter the race.
The Liberal leader will be up against big names, including NDP Premier Rachel Notley, Wildrose leader Brian Jean and the winner of the PC race. Wilson said they come with political baggage, which the Liberals have had little of in Alberta.
With the federal Liberals in power, the provincial party is looking at a very different landscape and plans to capitalize on it in the next election, Wilson said.
"We're not just hoping to get a few people in, we're actually hoping to become the government," she said.
The nomination period for leadership candidates runs from Jan. 16 until March 31.
There will be a debate in Calgary on April 8 and another in Edmonton on May 6.
The new leader will be announced on June 4 in Calgary.