This Wednesday the Maori Party will select a candidate to stand against Hone Harawira in Te Tai Tokerau (TTT). The following candidates have announced their intention to seek the Maori Party nomination:
- Mere Mangu
- Waihoroi Shortland
- Solomon Tipene
On paper, all three are strong candidates. All three whakapapa to Ngati Hine and Mangu and Shortland both link to Matawaia Marae. Perhaps the most interesting candidate is Mangu, a lawyer and retired army captain. Mangu ran as an independent in 2002 and 2005 polling second and third respectively. In 2002 Mangu outpolled Naida Glavish, a prominent Maori leader, while in 2005 Mangu managed to pull almost seven per cent of the vote. This is quite an achievement considering Mangu ran as an independent in both elections.
Shortland is best known as the host of Te Tepu on Maori TV and as “Weirdo” from the movie Boy. I think it is safe to assume that Shortland, as host of Te Tepu which is a Maori language current affairs show, has some understanding of politics and Maori politics in particular.
Solomon Tipene is the co-chair of the Maori Party’s Whangarei branch. Tipene is also involved with Ngati Hine’s treaty claim. As a Maori Party member and treaty negotiator Tipene is not a political newcomer.
Although I do not know how much support each candidate enjoys on the ground, I would tentatively select Mangu as the strongest candidate. Mangu is the only candidate with electoral experience. Although Shortland and Tipene have broader political experience, for example in political commentary, neither candidate possesses campaign experience. Mangu did well as an independent. Remember independent candidates do not have access to party resources, including activists and admin support, independents also lack association with an established brand, struggle to attract media attention and find it difficult to tap donors and volunteers. With this in mind Mangu’s achievements, especially in 2002, are respectable. Having said that, a certain amount of baggage comes with losing two times. But that aside, Mangu has campaign experience and, according to Maori Party vice-president Ken Mair, a “strong profile” on the ground.
Ultimately, I do not think it matters who the Maori Party selects. Hone Harawira will win and Kelvin Davis will poll second - assuming ceteris paribus. For my take on the byelection see this post.