Two hopefuls already in line for Mana by-election

BY VERNON SMALL AND CLAIRE TREVETT
Last updated 05:00 12/08/2010

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Labour leader Phil Goff's chief press secretary, Kris Faafoi, and former Progressive Party Otaki candidate Josie Pagani are lining up to contest the Mana by-election for Labour.

"I will put my hat in," Ms Pagani said yesterday, after sitting MP Winnie Laban said on Tuesday that she would stand aside and force a by-election before Christmas.

Mr Faafoi confirmed yesterday he had been approached in the past day to put his name up as a contestant.

It is understood that senior party figures see him as a strong contender because of his political experience, his background as a former television political reporter and his Tokelauan heritage.

However, Ms Pagani has more experience as a candidate. She was ranked third on the Progressives' list in 2008.

She is married to John Pagani, Mr Goff's communications adviser, who was a former key aide to Progressives leader Jim Anderton.

Labour president Andrew Little has ruled himself out of the race, and has indicated the party may look for a Pacific Island or Maori candidate to contest the seat.

Ms Pagani said that, although she was not a Pacific Islander, she would honour Ms Laban's approach to politics, with an emphasis on local concerns.

"I live on the border of the electorate and my children go to school there. It's my local patch and I know the issues."

The by-election is likely to cost more than the $450,000 it took to replace former prime minister Helen Clark in Mt Albert, but only half what Mr Anderton has claimed as the possible cost of a by-election.

The chief electoral officer has estimated the cost at $500,000. A spokeswoman for the chief electoral officer said work had begun on a more detailed budget for the Mana by-election, expected to be held later this year, after Ms Laban's decision to take a post at Victoria University.

The cost included hiring temporary staff for election headquarters and for polling booths, and renting property, including a headquarters in the electorate for the returning officer and places such as halls for polling stations and advance voting stations.

Other costs included printing ballot papers, getting voting screens and tables, and sending information to voters, including the Easy Vote voting packs.

The last general election, in 2008, cost $36 million, including preparation costs.

The spokeswoman said by-election costs depended on the individual electorate involved. Factors that affected costs included the size of the electorate and the overhead costs, such as charges for property hire.

Mr Anderton, the Wigram MP, estimated by-elections cost between $600,000 and $1 million and said such costs would justify his decision to remain as an MP until the next election if he won the Christchurch mayoralty.

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