OPINION: Palmerston North Mayor Jono Naylor goes into this year's election race with a huge majority.
In 2010, he produced a stunning result, securing 16,717 votes and overcoming former mayor Mark Bell-Booth by more than 14,000 votes.
Mr Bell-Booth was a credible candidate but the electorate was clearly far from tired of Mr Naylor.
The people gave him an emphatic mandate to implement his vision and they also elected a council widely thought capable of being more constructive than the previous lot.
It will be up to voters to decide if the optimism amounted to much.
Mr Naylor looks the clear favourite - he would have to shed thousands of votes to be at risk - but there are signs he will have a harder fight this time.
There has been some spice at recent council meetings, like when councillors decided to delay a code-of-conduct matter for Cr Chris Teo-Sherrell. The delay call was led by councillor and mayoral challenger Lew Findlay, a viable alternative leader with strong community credentials.
It is not the only time Mr Naylor and Cr Findlay have clashed recently. There was a fairly fiery exchange over the council's involvement with the community.
The business over Cr Teo-Sherrell has me wondering if Mr Naylor has lost a little clout at the council table.
It may not matter a great deal, of course. It's the people who decide elections, not councillors.
He may well be re-elected and he may end up with councillors who are mostly happy to work with him.
The other councillor having a tilt for the top job is the promising Duncan McCann.
Cr McCann might have been a bigger threat had he not squandered an opportunity to turn the parking issue to his advantage. Instead he was given a lesson in politics by deputy mayor Jim Jefferies.
Cr Jefferies produced a notice of motion that would set right an obvious wrong, that the city council is happy to sting people for $40 for keying in a wrong bay number when paying for their parking, while parking overstayers are fined just $12.
The city council's reliance on parking fines to fund day-to-day operations would also be fixed by Cr Jefferies plan, though making things right would leave a hole in the books.
Cr McCann could have come up with such a scheme himself but missed his chance.
He may struggle to make headway in a race where many people have a pretty clear idea what Mr Naylor and Cr Findlay are about, but he looks a smooth and smart enough operator to have an impact.
Cr McCann's entry into the race is likely to be helpful for Cr Findlay, especially if those voters who support Cr McCann have Cr Findlay as their second preference.
The voting system being used for this election can, I believe, be a little unkind to an incumbent.
In debates, there is a risk of the incumbent being pitted against the rest. That may matter more in this race than it has in previous years.
There is no chance of Grant Seton becoming mayor, but it is worth noting that last time he somehow managed to get more than 1000 votes.
Under the single-transferable-vote system, STV, those votes become relevant. Voters in the Palmerston North City Council election will not be asked to tick boxes on their voting forms. This year, they can rank the candidates.
That means the 1000-odd people whose first preference may still be Mr Seton could influence the result with their second preference.
The system allows people to reason like so: I like Candidate A the best, but if Candidate A doesn't win, I hope Candidate B wins.
This phenomenon may be more helpful for Cr Findlay than it is for Mr Naylor.
Mr Naylor, though, is a slick performer capable of outshining all the rest. The election still looks like it's Mr Naylor's to lose but he will know he can't afford to be cocky.
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