Despite gaffes and deficits, the provincial Conservatives still top the polls with Lethbridge voters.
But the Wildrose party's popularity continues to grow, according to the latest telephone survey. And it's pulling even with Conservative incumbent Greg Weadick in Lethbridge West.
In Lethbridge East, Bridget Pastoor and the Conservatives still enjoy a five-point lead over Wildrose. But her former party, the Alberta Liberals, have dropped below 10 per cent in voter support.
"There's real competition now in Alberta politics," says political scientist Faron Ellis, releasing results from this month's poll conducted by the Citizen Society Research Lab at Lethbridge College.
"But this situation is not unique to Lethbridge."
The governing Conservatives' support in Lethbridge West has slipped from 31 per cent in 2012 to 26.5 per cent today, he reported. But Wildrose has doubled from 12.9 per cent a year ago to 25.4 per cent - a "statistical tie," Ellis says.
New Democratic Party popularity has grown as well, from 17.8 per cent to 19.3, while Liberals have slipped a little to 14.1 per cent.
For the Conservatives, he says optimism could be based on the fact they've have held on to most of their supporters despite bad news on so many fronts: health-care battles, out-of-control expense accounts, revenue shortfalls and soaring deficits.
"They're now in a significant horse race," however, certainly in West.
For Wildrose, Ellis said the polls show support isn't ebbing. On the other hand, more voters still prefer the Conservatives despite their trials and tribulations. New Democrats can also take comfort, even though they're still third.
"They're in a very enviable position," especially if Wildrose and Conservatives split the right-wing vote in the next election.
In East and West, he added, Liberals are showing "bedrock support" here regardless of their party's standing in the legislature.
In East, 17.6 per cent of those polled said they were undecided, while the undecided factor was smaller in West, at 13.4 per cent. That floating vote could become significant in many constituencies, Ellis suggests.
While today's electoral map of Alberta shows many Wildrose MLAs in the south and even more Conservatives in the north, Ellis says that doesn't accurately reflect the popular vote last time Albertans voted. In many constituencies, the margin of victory was between three and eight per cent.
"It was a lot closer than it looks," he says. "And I think it's tightening up."
Another race may be tightening up in southern Alberta, meanwhile. But the Conservatives - the Ottawa ones - continue to enjoy voters' support despite a war of words between MPs LaVar Payne and Jim Hillyer, over changes in constituency boundaries.
In Lethbridge and Coaldale at least, Ellis reports voters who responded to the random poll placed the federal Conservatives in the lead with 48.5 per cent support compared with 17 per cent for the Liberals and 14.5 for the New Democrats.
The semi-annual telephone survey, conducted by supervised college students on Feb. 9-10, interviewed 835 randomly selected adults in Lethbridge and Coaldale. The weighted sample is believed to yield a margin of error of 3.4 per cent - plus or minus - 19 times out of 20.