Naylor's bolt from the blue
Palmerston North's high-polling mayor Jono Naylor has declared his intention to unseat Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway in a campaign shaping up as a big battle of the nice guys.
Naylor - who has enjoyed huge levels of popular support as mayor - is the sole nominee for the National Party candidacy for the Palmerston North electorate, subject to confirmation by local National members on May 25.
The novice party member, not previously aligned with National or any other political party, would have to notch up an extra 3285 votes to topple the two-term MP.
He was confident he could do it, after being three times elected mayor, most recently clearing the 50 per cent threshold on the first count in the city's first STV election.
"I have enjoyed very good support from this community in the past as a councillor and as mayor.
"I would expect to retain that strong support."
Both men have promised a campaign based on ideals and policies.
Lees-Galloway said the mayor was "a nice guy", but would struggle to defend National policies that had hurt Palmerston North and other regions.
"We have had a really good working relationship, and I welcome him to the race."
But he said with issues such as unemployment in the region rising to 7.7 per cent, the uncertain future of the Capital Connection, and funding cuts to UCOL, it would be hard to argue National was working for Palmerston North and Manawatu.
"I'm very confident Labour's economic development policy will be warmly received by the electorate."
Naylor said "why National?" was one of the questions he expected to be asked most often.
He said National's values around personal responsibility, reward for achievements, strong families and caring communities aligned well with his own.
He believed the country would do best in the hands of a National-led government.
After 13 years in local government, starting as a city councillor at the age of 34, he felt he had more to offer the city.
He believes he could be more effective as a member of Parliament than as mayor.
Electorate chairman Rob Woodhouse said he was rapt with the mayor's decision. This is his opportunity. "I'm pretty sure the seat is winnable. I can see him going a long way in the National Party."
The city has not had a National MP since John Lithgow held the seat in 1975 to 1978.
Naylor is promising a campaign about ideas and ideology.
He said he had enjoyed a congenial relationship with Lees-Galloway and worked with him on many issues, but it was not unusual for people to find they were political opponents. "I have always run my campaigns positively, rather than pointing the finger at others."
Naylor said he loved being mayor, and although he had not considered a move into national politics until this year, it was a decision he had not taken lightly.
"For me, there is an increasing desire to contribute not just to this community, but to the wider New Zealand community."
He said the city council was doing a good job and would continue to do so without him, if that was required. "The decision feels right for me. Everything in life has a season, and just because you love doing something does not mean you should carry on doing it forever."