WCC Election 2019: Potential Mayoral Candidates

We are now into the electioneering cycle as the countdown to voting begins later in the year with potential candidates already falling into the mode across the board. But, as the Dominion Post noted early this year, we have seen no candidates for Mayor stepping into the ring.

Not one strong contender has raised their hand to take on Wellington Mayor Justin Lester in October’s election.

The incumbent Labour Party mayor announced his run for a second term in November, and since then not a single murmur has been heard from a potential challenger.

Not even the offer of $10,000 for a viable contender – pledged by concert promoter Phil Sprey in 2018 – has been able to convince a suitable candidate to put their hand up.

The vast majority of the city’s councillors are firm in their dismissal of the idea of running for mayor this year, with many backing Lester for a second term.

Dominion Post

You could be forgiven for thinking that no one intended to run, but, despite Councillors approached for comment denying they were going to stand up, the article noted this:

But appearances may deceive. Sprey said he has been approached in confidence by three councillors who expressed “lukewarm” interest in both the mayoralty and his $10,000 offer.

Granted this is a slightly lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek opinion piece, so take it that way if you can. This is our view of the likely candidates that may step forward in the next few weeks along with some people who would probably have a good chance at taking the crown should they apply to the residents.

The issue that candidates face is the cost of the campaign, which means unless they have some large donations on their side from business, developers, or central parties, it’s a very tall task. Of course, running for the Mayoralty, even knowing you do not have a chance, is very good for publicity and so helps your chances to be elected Councillor. Simply put, you get more media coverage from the various outlets because you are running for that lead position, which gives you more name recognition.

In no particular order:

Previous Contenders

Nick Leggett

Nick ran last time around and had a great result on around 24,000 votes (Note: Justin had a total of around 32,000.) On the upside he is young, and most people in Wellington know of him. He’s smart, articulate, and understands the machinations of the wider regional politics as well as having been the previous mayor of Porirua. He has good leadership qualities and is well connected to existing politicians both local and central.

Nicola Young

Nicola ran last time and gathered a healthy 5,500 votes. Nicola struggles with increasing her name recognition, which is a critical part of winning the Mayoralty, or a Councillors seat. People vote on the name and the look of a person’s face, generally.

Nicola has been a quiet achiever around the central city over the last two triennium’s and is one of the only Councillors that shows an active interest in the history of Wellington. That’s interesting because usually, politicians in Wellington never look backwards, they are always trying to define the future, and yet where we came from is critical to understanding where we want to be.

Jack Yan

Jack last ran in 2013 and earned a healthy 10,000 votes landing in third behind John Morrison (who can forget that moustache) and Celia Wade-Brown. Jack has massive social media reach due to the businesses he works in. However, the question is whether that audience is Wellington-based or internationally based. I wager that the bulk of his influence is international, which doesn’t help here.

Jack is one of the new ideas guys and smart to boot. He has a lot of ideas around turning Wellington into a “Smart City”, and his vision for the city was quite special.

Current Councillors

Andy Foster

Andy is a veteran of the Council and ran in 2016. He has extensive institutional knowledge and a mental library of the history of the Council that makes him very valuable when it comes to making change happen.

He’s well known and well liked, articulate, and most importantly not afraid to speak out when everyone else has been told to be quiet. We like that. Most people like that we suspect. When he does engage, it tends to be thoughtful and fact-based rather than some of the more hysterical reactions from Councillors who suffer from glass jaws.

Simon Woolf

Simon Woolf certainly has name recognition and has maintained a high public profile through his tenure as Councillor. He is entertaining and engaging, with a quick wit.

Again, he has often spoken out despite being told not to, often with hilarious results, and I think this gives an air of the underdog. Simon has the feeling of being on the side of the residents rather than a remote politician that is disconnected from their ward.

Other Possibilities

Rex Nicholls

Everyone needs a centre-right candidate to have a crack at the Mayor’s chair. Rex has name recognition, good political connections, and no doubt the resources to enter the competition.

Whether there is a voting base in the town, given its strong left orientation, remains to be seen. However, I suspect there is. I also suspect that they would swarm to the cause if motivated.

Nick Mills

Nick has talked about running this year already, though no public announcement has been made. The Wellington Saints CEO is deeply involved in the hospitality industry and well-known around the city.

He has name recognition and I suspect with his various lines of business understands the mood of the residents better than most.

Paul Eagle

Paul would win against Justin; I am quite sure of that. He’s almost like the Incredible Hulk. Mild-mannered and caring, when his ire is raised, he is quite happy to go smashing into bureaucratic obstacles for his residents.

Well-known and well-loved in the southern ward he has great reach across the city and understands the long-term issues while still being part of the Labour Party.

Dave Armstrong

Wikipedia describes Dave Armstrong as “New Zealand playwright, screenwriter, trumpet player and columnist for the Dominion Post.” He is well-known publicly for his often comedic opinion pieces. Given that a comedian just won the Ukrainian election, he may stand a good chance if he ran.

Certainly, noting that Council meetings often degenerate into comedy like dramas, he’d be right at home. Plus, he could play the trumpet instead of using the gavel to keep unruly Councillors in line.

Peter Jackson

Landslide victory.

Hobbit holes to solve the housing crisis. World War II airshows every other weekend. A Film Museum for every film he has created. Putting the entire Shelly Bay area onto wheels as in Mortal Engines, so it can be moved about when the sea-level rises.

Perfect candidate.