Controversial MLA Benito loses Mill Woods nomination
A south-side community centre erupted in deafening hollers and cheers late Tuesday night when Edmonton businessman Sohail Quadri beat controversial Tory MLA Carl Benito to win the Progressive Conservative nomination in Edmonton-mill Woods.
Quadri, a local printer and entrepreneur, immigrated from Pakistan more than two decades ago and has been an active volunteer through the Lions Club and other organizations.
“I won because I worked hard,” Quadri said. “I have touched every community in Mill Woods, and I believe I can serve this community.”
He declined to comment on the role that Benito’s controversial time in office may have played in the victory. “In a nomination we don’t talk about policy, we just say: ‘I’m the candidate, can you trust me?’ ”
A total of 1,363 ballots were cast. It was a preferential vote and Quadri won on the second ballot with 617 votes.
Benito was a magnet for controversy throughout his term in office, repeatedly making headlines for spectacular political gaffes.
During his election campaign in 2008, Benito pledged to use his entire salary to fund a scholarship for Mill Woods youth, but later reneged. “If elected as a Member of the Legislative Assembly for Alberta, I will donate my MLA salary as a scholarship to young people in Mill Woods,” he said in his campaign literature.
After he was elected, however, Benito said he only meant that he would give $75,000 over four years.
In November 2010, The Journal discovered Benito had failed to pay thousands in property taxes. When confronted, he blamed his wife.
“Before my wife went on holiday, I reminded her to take care of all the bills, and obviously she forgot to pay the rental property taxes,” he said at the time. He paid his taxes after the debt became public.
Most recently, infighting and allegations of foul play forced provincial party officials to intervene in his riding’s nomination process.
The fractious local politics had been simmering for months but controversy erupted on Christmas Eve when organizers ran a small ad on page 66 of the Edmonton Sun indicating nominations would be open from Dec. 26 to Jan. 3.
Tories who wanted to challenge Benito for the nomination cried foul and provincial party officials were forced to step in, saying it was not appropriate for a nomination to be “snuck in on the eve of Christmas.”
For his part, Benito attributed Tuesday’s loss to the demographics in Mill Woods.
“As you can see in Mill Woods, everywhere you go you see the majority of the community is from Pakistan and from India. The number of voters from other communities is really very minimal,” he said.
“For any candidate, if you’re not from the Pakistani or East Indian communities, it is not easy.”
Asked what role his political missteps played in his defeat, Benito said they played no role at all.