While we don’t know all the contenders in the upcoming election, I thought I’d have a crack at early predictions on who is going to win and who is going to be ousted based on the current profile. I’ll update this as the election progresses and we see candidates coming forward.
We have some very strong candidates in office who are likely to remain following the next election should they choose to run. We also have a handful who could be unseated as a result of the mood of the city and the perception they are not effective.
The Southern Ward has long been a Labour stronghold, however, with the exit of Paul Eagle, a local darling of the residents, and the ongoing furore over how the cycleway has been handled, that support is waning.
The current councillors are Fleur Fitzsimons and David Lee.
Fleur scraped into the position by a very narrow margin over two independents, one of which was associated with the fight back against the cycleway. A Labour candidate it is likely she just snuck through on the branding. If David Lee runs this time around, then she is in a position of peril. There were several strong candidates that campaigned in 2016 and the by-election. Between David Lee and a strong independent, she could be squeezed out.
It’s rumoured that David Lee will not run this time around, breathe a sigh of relief Fleur, and he has been relatively inactive over the triennium focussing efforts on the Green Party for the most part. Even if he did run I suspect he’d have a tough task given his lack of profile over the last years. However, if he ran again under a Green brand, he’d most likely be a shoo-in.
Pro tip for Southern Ward candidates: Everyone hates the cycleway. Hating on the cycleway is a good way to garner votes. However, it can’t be the only issue as we saw when the lone candidate in the by-election campaigning on the cycleway didn’t come in.
Onslow-Western Ward has traditionally been an independent stronghold with little support for affiliated party candidates. The three current candidates are some of the most visible and strongest across the entire Council pack and unseating any of them is a very tough task. It’s likely we’d see all three re-elected unless we see a strong outsider.
Andy Foster is likely undefeatable. Name recognition with a strong perception of someone who gets things done he will be the number one polling candidate. If he chooses to run for mayor, that will further boost his take on votes given that mayoral candidates are given far more media exposure than regular councillors.
Simon Woolf will remain. Again, he has a strong personal brand, and massive social media reach. When he runs for mayor (come on, you know he will), that will bolster his votes as well. Fiercely independent, charismatic, and with a smell of the underdog, he’ll float back in nicely.
Diane Calvert, our third independent in this ward, rolled in with a very comfortable margin over her nearest rival, Ray Chung. Diane has a high profile in the ward and a good social media presence. She has injected herself into the role of Councillor and is often seen out and about. If anyone were going to be pushed out, it would have to be Diane, but there are, so far, no strong contenders.
Labour has thrown their candidate into the ring, Rebecca Matthews-Heron. A relatively unknown personality, her Twitter profile describes her as “Leftie, feminist, fashiony, bookish.” I’d be willing to bet that given Karori’s very conservative nature and love for the independent, she will struggle to make numbers.
Pro tip for Onslow-Western Ward candidates: Door knocking works. Look at the results of Matthew Plummer who spent untold hours beating his feet around the suburb last time around; his results were worthy.
Northern Ward is a bit of a tricky beast and subject to good churn over the years. Aside from Jill Day, the current Councillors are weak and should be easy to push out by a determined candidate.
The current Councillors are Jill Day, Peter Gilberd, and Malcolm Sparrow.
Jill Day, deputy mayor, and Labour Party appointee should poll well, and I would have thought at the top. She came second behind Malcolm Sparrow last time around with a good showing. In my opinion, she allows herself to be shadowed by Justin, significantly and has a few months to come out from behind him and show herself to be a true deputy, which so far, she has not. That should clinch another term.
Malcolm Sparrow has good name recognition, particularly in Tawa, and is the epitome of the resident. He’s deeply engaged in the boomer slice of the community. However, he could be taken out by a similar candidate or one that appeals to a slightly younger generation. Someone with a strong business and work ethic in the age range of forty plus could unseat him.
Peter Gilberd is almost invisible. The perception is that he is invisible. As the appointed City Scientist, he is nowhere to be seen on issues of Climate Change or Resiliency. You’d expect the City Scientist to be fronting that debate on an almost weekly basis. While his numbers weren’t too bad last time around, he was certainly third in the pack and well within reach of number four.
Pro tip for Northern Ward: Unless you are a long-time local with a good business base and can display that wonderful brand of conservatism the ward has, don’t bother. If you are, then you’ve got a good chance to take out either Peter or Malcolm.
Lambton Ward has always been a tight blend of all the political spectrum. The current Councillors are Green, Labour, and arguably centre-right (though notably independent.) I imagine that the Labour Party scratches it heads here as they probably think that all three could be Labour Party candidates.
The current councillors are Nicola Young, Iona Pannett, and Brian Dawson.
Iona Pannett won by a country-mile last time around and is a long-time Councillor. She is frequently seen in media, and it interests me that she was never made Deputy Mayor. She is very green and lives it rather than talks it. She’s also the only current Councillor I’ve seen that can lead a constructive debate on Twitter, which is astounding given the nature of the platform. My pick is that she would romp back in easily at number one. She potentially should have a crack at the Mayoralty, even if it’s just for practice.
Nicola Young is a consistent achiever picking issues that are of value to residents and then making stuff happen. There is a small of an underdog as well, and some vicious attacks by the left over the last triennium have seen her support flourish. She spends a lot of time in the ward and has an easy-going charisma that most people warm too. I think she’d be difficult to unseat.
Brian Dawson is the replacement Mark Peck, in my opinion, though not nearly as volatile. The only Labour Party candidate in this ward, Brian has struggled a bit this term but has consistently been present on a hot button issue, housing. I suspect he will be number three, again, this time around.
Pro tip for Lambton Ward: Attacking your opponents because of their perceived political persuasion is an absolute no-no. The residents react badly to it. Frankly, you would need a candidate here who is a public figure. Someone with name recognition. Anything else is not going to work. The final piece of advice, door knocking in this ward works wonders as does appearing at every local event including the Sunday markets.
Finally, the Eastern Ward. This ward has some of the hottest issues of the impending election. Transport, Climate Change, and Shelly Bay. Shelly Bay, as we will see in a following article, is likely to be the election issue where the most warfare and politicking occurs.
The current councillors are Sarah Free, Simon Marsh, and Chris Calvi-Freeman. They are tough opponents, but there is an opportunity for a change.
Sarah Free has taken to the Councillor role with a high degree of passion. She’s well connected in the ward and moved her entire family to the area after her first election win. A Green, she comes across as compassionate and engaging. She’s been a very strong advocate of cycling improvements, which has put her on the end of a lot of abuse.
Simon Marsh only wins because of name recognition, of that I am quite sure. He’s a pleasant, nice man, who has been part of the furniture for what feels like centuries. No doubt, he is getting is yellow caravan cleaned in preparation, because he knows this ward likes to see their candidates on the ground and in the community.
Chris Calvi-Freeman is the weakest in this pack, though still had a healthy margin last election over a relatively unknown Labour candidate. He has good media exposure for strange things, like the tunnel tooting issue earlier this year. However, he’s not perceived as having had a large impact on the ward itself and tends to fluctuate over issues from time to time.
Labour has put another candidate into the race this year. Teri O’Neill. Now Teri is interesting for a variety of reasons, but I am not sure she is a good fit for this race; frankly, I would have run her in Lambton to replace Brian Dawson given the youth vote that is available there and exiled Brian to Miramar, where he is a better fit.
Putting that aside, she’s already got boots on the ground and is door knocking. She also has a quite significant Labour machine behind her. Eastern Ward is tricky, and she’ll need to pick her issues carefully. Transport is an absolute power issue, and caution will be needed in how that is approached, as the suburb tends to be high car users. At some point, she will need to take a stand on Shelly Bay. Climate Change is going to be up there and coming to a position on why the WCC owns a large proportion of Wellington’s biggest emissions producer (the airport) will be complicated.
Pro tip for Eastern Ward: I suspect that to get a seat out in Eastern Ward candidates are going to need good name recognition, or a good name backing them. Exploiting the Shelly Bay fiasco is going to get good mileage because it has elements of all the hot issues; housing, transport, climate, consultation, celebrities, and environmentalism. If you’re considering running, then I’d be giving Peter Jackson a call.