Greens enter Mt Albert byelection race
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.