Greens en­ter Mt Al­bert by­elec­tion race

Central Leader - - News - By Scott Mor­gan

Green Party co-leader Rus­sel Nor­man is the lat­est in a long line of candidates seek­ing to re­place for­mer prime min­is­ter He­len Clark as the MP for Mt Al­bert.

Welling­ton-based Dr Nor­man is set to be con­firmed as the party’s can­di­date at a se­lec­tion meet­ing tonight, with no one else seek­ing the nom­i­na­tion.

“We wanted to make a big splash and show we are tak­ing it se­ri­ously,” he says.

Dr Nor­man says he’s the un­der­dog go­ing into the by­elec­tion against yet-to-be­con­firmed Labour and Na­tional party candidates.

But he says the Greens could cause an up­set thanks to a strong fol­low­ing in Mt Al­bert, se­cur­ing 11 per­cent of the party vote dur­ing last year’s elec­tion.

“I think in by­elec­tions any­thing is pos­si­ble. The peo­ple of Mt Al­bert have the op­por­tu­nity to have a re­ally ded­i­cated lo­cal MP and can send a mes­sage to Welling­ton.”

Dr Nor­man feels con­cerns that Na­tional may scrap the Waterview tun­nel for a cheaper op­tion could see him pick up votes.

“Peo­ple don’t want to lose all their green space.”

He says the Greens have a strong record on trans­port in Auck­land af­ter push­ing for elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of the rail net­work un­der the pre­vi­ous Labour gov­ern­ment.

He ad­mits the move to fight for an elec­torate seat is “a bit of a de­par­ture” from the Greens’ nor­mal fo­cus dur­ing gen­eral elec­tions of cam­paign­ing for the party vote.

But he says a by­elec­tion pro­vides “very spe­cial cir­cum­stances”.

If he wins the seat, Dr Nor­man says he will move into the elec­torate. Pre­vi­ously he lived on Wai­heke Is­land for five years and spent time cam­paign­ing for the Greens in Mt Al­bert and Mt Roskill dur­ing the 1999 elec­tion.

Dr Nor­man also re­jects the pos­si­bil­ity that by stand­ing in the seat he may split the left-lean­ing vote, al­low­ing the Na­tional can­di­date to come through the mid­dle.

“When you look at the whole Green vote, it comes from a lot broader range than left and right. It comes from right across the spec­trum.”

Labour leader Phil Goff says the Greens’ de­ci­sion to stand Dr Nor­man could split the left’s vote, but be­lieves the party has put for­ward a high-pro­file can­di­date to in­crease its ex­po­sure na­tion­ally.

“Lo­cal peo­ple have the in­tel­li­gence to see that there will be a Labour MP or a Na­tional MP without de­priv­ing them of their right to make their own determination. Mt Al­bert has a long his­tory of Labour rep­re­sen­ta­tion.”

Eight candidates are seek­ing the Labour nom­i­na­tion, with lo­cal del­e­gates and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the party’s na­tional of­fice due to make a de­ci­sion on Sun­day.

Labour candidates in­clude David Shearer, Glenda Fryer, Meg Bates, Chris Tre­me­wan, Stu­art Prossor, He­len White, Rhema Vaithi­anathan and Farida Sul­tana. Lo­cal Na­tional del­e­gates will choose be­tween list MP Melissa Lee and for­mer Mt Al­bert can­di­date Ravi Musuku.

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