Our final ‘Fisking the Candidates’ looks at the contenders vying to be what could be the last Mayor of Wellington as we know it. Feel free to post your own picks and observations in the comments.
And as an added bonus we’ve launched a poll on who you want be the next Mayor (right side of this page). We figured it cant be any worse than the polling done to date.
Mayor (1 vacancy)
Despite being a relatively pedestrian campaign, 2013 remains one of the most competitive mayoral races in recent years with 6 candidates of varying quality.
- 3News have profiled all 6 candidates
- The Wellingtonian looked at each of the candidates’ vision
- All candidates were surveyed by the Chamber of Commerce
- The Wellingtonista have compiled a great Q+A with most candidates
- Generation Zero have scored all candidates on their public transport policy positions
- The Dominion Post co-hosted a major mayoral debate with Massey University and reviewed each performance
- Salient interviewed most of the contenders
- The Wellington Youth Council also profile the candidates
- New website askaway.co.nz have been asking questions
Whether it’s as close as 2010 remains to be seen unless we get better polling. Until then, I’m going with the vibe I’m getting from my fluoridated drinking water.
Given her incumbency and profile Celia Wade-Brown started the race in the strongest position and the first poll (despite its FPP nature) would have given her some added confidence to work from. The age and gender breakdown in that poll was very interesting. But the second poll (despite its crap methodology) would have been a timely reminder that she cant take this race for granted. As Kerry Prendergast proved in 2010, nothing should be assumed!
One of the glaring differences in 2013 Wade Brown’s campaign is how low key it’s been and how lacking the Green Party machine is. Despite being in the fight of her life with the centre-Right of Morrison and Young as well as the Left with former Alliance candidate, Jack Yan, her campaign roll out was surprising slow.
Her lacklustre campaign could be due to much of her 2010 team and backers (including the campaign manager) either being pushed or jumping ship. Running as an independent, she fools no one about her political persuasion and is well aware that the Green machine and all that came with it was the key to her 2010 victory. Is she, like Prendergast, relying more on her incumbency to win her reelection, rather than running a strong and visible campaign?
Her position on council outsourcing/workers rights, the Alternative Giving Campaign and the feeling that she’s failed to live up to the hype of her election has disappointing many on the Left. The attacks from her Right-wing (and some left-wing) critics that she’s indecisive, leads a divided council, and lacks the required leadership skills, has probably damaged her, but how much remains to be seen.
However she released a meaty rental housing warrant of fitness policy and her commitment to cycling shows that she’s not short of ideas and emphasises her preferred collaborative approach of governing. The recent earthquakes gave her a great (non-political) opportunity to demonstrate her leadership as she and the Council responded. She was awarded (surprisingly for some) the top marks at the big Dominion Post-Massey University mayoral debate with the paper saying:
It was Celia Wade-Brown who won on the night, after coming out swinging in a debate peppered with barbs and questions… Ms Wade-Brown had come prepared, with a stack of figures to back up her points helping her gain crowd support throughout the night.
She was staunchly unapologetic about tight council votes, saying there were bound to be 8-7 decisions as long as there were 15 councillors. “An 8 to 7 vote is as good as it was in the Rugby World Cup. Spoke well and had the most convincing delivery. Was not afraid to debate other candidates’ ideas as well as outlining her own… Enjoyed the lion’s share of the applause but most of it was there from the beginning.”
She will be hoping that sort of support and performance continues until polling day.
Morrison isn’t exactly a fresh piece of meat himself, but as the ZB and Dominion Post polls show, he has the profile to challenge Wade-Brown and has emerged as the biggest anti-Celia candidate. His entrance into the race was well executed and sent a clear message to others that he was serious. He declared his candidacy with the Dominion Post reporting:
“Mystery” Morrison, who has been a Western ward councillor since 1998, plans to put the heat on Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, with a focus on the economy and job creation from the Centre-Right.
Wellington had been “stagnant” for the past three years and it was time for key matters such as regional governance and the Wellington Airport expansion to be resolved, he said.
“The city and the council need good leadership and some decisiveness and some action. We’re the centre of the region, so we should be leading the pack, not following.”
Since then he’s struggled to stay on message with a growing list of gaffes as long as a runway extension. A pattern emerged of Morrison blaming others for the strife he created for himself. He didn’t authorise his campaign properly, he blamed Salient for misunderstanding his attempt to have extra ballot boxes removed from Victoria University, he blamed his wife for his plagiarism of Kevin Laverly’s speech, then there was that time he confirmed non-existent plans for a Lord of the Rings museum, his claims around his call centre jobs came under fire, and then there was his denial, then apology for his shower comments. If that wasn’t enough his direct mail outs also offended.
To his credit his website and use of Facebook has been pretty good, but he let himself down trotting out the “Brighter Future” slogan. His attack line against Wade-Brown around bringing strong leadership and decisiveness is also an easy sell for him, despite the fact he’s been on Council since 1998, so is almost (slightly less so the past term) as culpable for the council’s performance and the health of Wellington as Wade-Brown is.
Without the safety of a ward seat, he could ultimately be the architect of his own political demise. He’s admitted he only ran to stop Wade-Brown sleepwalking to another 3 years which could explain his wobbly campaign and why he’s outsourced his campaign to a PR company.
But the question is whether he has capitalised enough on the anti-Celia/time for a change mood that many people feel and how preferences of all the other candidates are ultimately distributed. He may be a 1960s throwback, but there is life in Morrison’s clumsy candidacy and at the moment he somehow has a real chance of becoming mayor.
One of the more respectable (mostly) Right-leaning candidates Young has been energetic and organised, and has been campaigning for months. However her citywide profile is low and the ZB and Dominion Post polls are reminders that she’ll have do something superhuman to claim the mayoral chains. But I suspect she knew that from the beginning and like others before her, is using the mayoralty as an extra platform to a) rise above her crowded Ward field and b) so she can spend more on her campaign.
That being said, she’s proved she’s no show pony, flashing her clout and gaining plaudits for her organisation of a huge event with the Prime Minister in August.
For someone who is a communications professional by trade, the average marketing and branding of her campaign has been disappointing. Her “Think Young, Vote Young” slogan is also a bit cringey (family history aside and noted). Unlike Wade-Brown in 2010, Young’s website (I know she coded/made it herself), fliers and messaging aren’t the flashest. It’s not difficult to achieve and she wouldn’t be lacking access to resources. Her use of social media, particularly Twitter has been outstanding.
While she wont win the mayoralty, she will go on to Council via the Lambton Ward with a higher profile than many incumbents – which is probably what she wanted from the get go. But it does seem that she’s missed an opportunity (unlike Yan) to seriously capitalise on having two very polarsing and unpopular ‘front runners’ in Celia Wade-Brown and John Morrison.
We looked at Yan’s second bid for the mayoralty a few months ago. At the time we said his campaign was unusual because he’d declared early, had a decent website, had released a manifesto, frequently used almost every type of social media, had videos, and was actively campaigning, talking to people. Not much has changed since then, and surprisingly (considering how longs he’s been at it) he’s not tanking, instead increasing his output as polling day nears.
He seems to be doing a good job picking up the support of people previously behind Wade-Brown or who aren’t usually interested in council issues as he impresses voters on the hustings – even if it’s because he’s the least worst candidate. He recently made the Dominion Post take notice of him (surprised it too them that long) at their debate hosted with Massey where they said:
Jack Yan was the surprise of the night in a debate where criticisms increased as the night wore on… a confident Mr Yan had the firmest plan, announcing he would work with the university sector to identify the companies with the most potential companies, and grow them…. Talked a bit fast, but his vision spoke for itself... Preached more “business-minded thinking” in politics and a rebranding of Wellington, which went down well… Appeared to have won the most new fans by the end of the night.
His involvement in running Miss Universe New Zealand caused a bit of a stink after he criticised Morrison’s approach to direct mail outs based on gendered assumptions, but he claims he’s fighting the feminist cause from the inside, scrapping the bikini competition and focusing more on skills and intellect. We’ll see how that goes.
Yan probably has the best online presence of any candidate making good use of almost every social media platform going. Having a campaign internet warrior like Hamish McConnochie no doubt helped a lot keeping on top of things. He’d be a shoe in for Council with his campaign if he were running for both like Young.
He probably wont win the mayoralty, despite running the best campaign, so how his preference flow will be critical if Morrison or Wade-Brown are to triumph.
I hoping, for his sake, he doesn’t get so many votes he cant get his deposit back. Why he thinks the city would elect mayor after his performance as a Councillor is beyond me. Is he running in order to rehabilitate his image like Anthony Wiener’s botched attempt to win the Democratic nomination for New York City mayor and Shane Jones’ successful outing in the Labour leadership primary? I doubt it.
Judging by his campaign (he doesn’t even have public social media or a website – he’s using “other means” – all I can find is this parody Twitter.) and going by his performances at various candidate forums, he’s just using this as a platform to attack people.
As covered here, Muthu has one of the shortest and weakest candidate statements. In one sentence it says he believes he won’t win, then asks for your vote in the next sentence. Nevertheless he has said from the outset that the main aim of his campaign is to inspire and engage more of the ethnic Wellingtonian community in Council activity. A good goal and I wish him every success in that.
Despite his pessimism he seems to be pumping a reasonable amount of money in to his campaigns with billboards in the city and other material. He’s even boasted of received large anonymous campaign donations. His campaign returns will be interesting. He unwittingly provided the tweet of the campaign so far, has complained of “managed democracy” and a media black out, something which he’s tried to demonstrated at least twice by disappearing under the tables or other objects before speaking at recent candidates debates.
- Pick – Too close to call between Wade-Brown and Morrison, but slight advantage to Wade-Brown.
- Dark Horse – Jack Yan – with both Wade-Brown and Morrison going out of their way to give voters reasons not to support them, there is a (very, very) slim chance that Yan could slip through the middle.
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