Challenger untaxed by role

Rangitikei's Labour nominee was the first of the party's candidates to be announced ahead of the 2014 general election.

Deborah Russell, a Massey University taxation lecturer, was named on Saturday after being selected unopposed when two other candidates for the seat pulled out.

She will challenge National MP Ian McKelvie, the former Manawatu mayor who joined Parliament in 2011.

Born in Taranaki, Dr Russell started her career as an accountant working for Deloitte and the Treasury. She gained a PhD in Philosophy at the Australian National University.

Having returned to New Zealand in 2011, she now lives with her husband and three children in Palmerston North and works as a senior lecturer.

She has also made a name for herself through social media and as a Left-wing commentator and columnist.

Dr Russell said she joined the Labour Party on moving back to New Zealand and wasn't content to sit on the sidelines. Already chairwoman of the Labour Party economic committee, she decided to take the next step and stand for the Rangitikei electorate.

"I pretty firmly believe the National Government isn't looking after a lot of people. It's all about big business, and I have a very strong sense of fairness and equality and that's what I want to stand for in this coming year."

Campaigning is due to start early next year.

Dr Russell has already spoken to her employer about taking unpaid leave so she can devote time to meeting her constituents. "It is a big electorate so that will be a challenge."

While she intended to hear the concerns of rural people directly, access to services for rural people, particularly healthcare, issues of unemployment in Taihape, and the current Government "abandoning the regions", were all on her agenda.

Dr Russell is undaunted by her opponent, Mr McKelvie. "He's certainly well known to the local community, but it's not clear what he's done in Parliament.

"I think I've got plenty to offer and plenty to learn."

Manawatu Standard