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A 'relieved' Jason Kenney says he won't run in the UCP leadership race

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says he will not be running in the race to pick a new leader of the United Conservative party.

Kenney announced the news on his call-in radio show Saturday morning. 

"No," he said.

"If that was the case, I would have stepped down as leader earlier this week."

It was the first time Kenney took questions surrounding his surprise decision this week to step down, despite winning a party leadership review.

He captured just 51.4 per cent of the vote in the party member mail-in ballot. 

Kenney had previously been adamant a majority win — 50 per cent plus one — would be enough to stay on, but he backtracked Wednesday. 

The premier says he expected a higher margin of support based on conversations he had been having around the province.

"You get an electoral mandate of over one million votes and 16,000 people can essentially upend it," he said. "But that's the process that we have."

Kenney also revealed some surprising feelings after hearing the vote results from the UCP party president.

"I have to tell you, the first thought that went through my mind was a little bit of relief," he said.

"I've been in elected life for 25 years, and it was never my expectation to be in this job for a long time."

When asked about his decision to stay in the party's top spot, the premier launched into a speech about his campaign promises and the current Alberta economy. 

Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt believes that messaging was calculated. 

"He's doing it to help his reputation and create a narrative about why he is stepping down," Bratt told CTV News.

"He's trying to establish his legacy, and the best way to do that is by staying on as premier."

When asked about the leadership speculation Kenney laid to rest Saturday, Bratt also had some thoughts. While the political scientist said he largely believes the promise, he doesn't think this will be the last hurrah for Kenney. 

"He's also previously said 'no' on a lot of things pretty definitively," Bratt said. "So, never say never. I could see a scenario where he does get drafted to run again or orchestrates a draft for him to run again."

Kenney told radio listeners that at 53 years old, he is too young to retire. He also expressed excitement about having time to pursue some personal things that he has had to put off for years. 

With files from The Canadian Press Top Stories

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