Mana's man Faafoi straight into 2011 campaign

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Last updated 05:00 22/11/2010
Kris Faafoi
Sunday Star-Times
TAKING CENTRE STAGE: Mana's new Labour MP, Kris Faafoi, acknowledges the crowd with wife Gina Faafoi-Rogers at Pataka Museum after his by-election victory.

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Kris Faafoi is swinging straight into campaign mode for the 2011 election after winning the Mana by-election.

The tight race for the traditional Labour stronghold, which Mr Faafoi won with a 1080 majority, had Prime Minister John Key claiming it was a victory for the Government.

Yesterday Mr Faafoi, a former television reporter and press secretary to Labour leader Phil Goff, took the afternoon off with his family to savour the victory.

He said he felt relieved the campaign was over and he planned to "hit the ground running" from today. "It's less than 12 months till the general election so I know I have to definitely get cracking."

Constituents had already begun bringing their concerns to him, and he also wanted to thank supporters and community members for their help.

"My first thing is to get around all the schools and touch base properly with all the teachers and principals to see how we can help in Opposition and also as the local MP," Mr Faafoi said.

Then he would try to visit business to get feedback about jobs. "I'd like to see if I can continue to do a few street-corner meetings just to let people know we are here to help."

He intended to make them a regular feature.

On the hustings he had promised to move into the electorate, but that would not be realistic before Christmas.

He and wife Gina, a producer with Radio New Zealand, liked Titahi Bay, he said. "She will be spending more time in it, so she has more say in it than me."

He expected his maiden speech to focus on issues important to Mana – the cost of living and healthcare. But he would also mention his parents, who emigrated from Tokelau. "Mum and Dad were my inspiration for running."

Mr Faafoi and senior Labour figures yesterday expressed satisfaction with the 1080 by-election night majority over National's hard-running candidate, Hekia Parata. The seat was previously held by popular three-term MP Winnie Laban with a 6155 majority.

They all pointed to the low 54 per cent voter turnout as an explanation for the narrow win.

"Nearly half the people stayed home. I would hazard a guess that most of them were our supporters," Mr Faafoi said.

"I'm happy with it. I was a newbie in the by-election and there is work to be done, but I am confident I will be able to extend that in 2011."

Labour president Andrew Little was "pretty satisfied" with the result given the low turnover and that it took a lot of effort to get the voters out. "National ran a pretty fierce campaign," he said.

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Under the radar it had run a "wedge" campaign telling Maori that Labour cared only about Pacific voters.

Former Mana Labour MP Graham Kelly said Mr Faafoi had done remarkably well.

When Mr Kelly won the seat in 1996 he secured 41 per cent, and in 1999, 47 per cent, compared with Mr Faafoi's 46.4 per cent.

Mr Little said union leader Matt McCarten, who won 816 votes, had entertained voters "but that had not translated into voter support".

Mr McCarten said he had identified about 2000 supporters, but the tide had flowed back to Labour in the last week. "With both [Labour and National] machines running at full blast in a competitive race the turnout should have been better."

Working class voters had felt disconnected from Labour and Ms Parata was a good candidate.

Ms Parata, who is a National list MP, said she happy with the result in such a safe Labour seat. It gave her a strong platform for another tilt at the seat in 2011.

Mr Key praised Ms Parata's effort in the race. "She's been articulate and intelligent, in touch with the local issues and worked extremely hard, so full credit and success has gone to her," he said.

"Sometimes, losing is winning, and this is one of them, where we've had a tremendous result here."

Mr Goff had said the by-election would be a referendum on the Government but Labour had been "thrashed".

MANA BY THE NUMBERS

Kris Faafoi (Labour): 10,397

Hekia Parata (National): 9317

Jan Logie (Green): 1493

Matt McCarten (Independent): 816

Colin Du Plessis (ACT): 132

Julian Crawford (Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis): 107

Sean Fitzpatrick (Libertarianz): 43

Kelly Buchanan (Alliance): 37

Invalid: 45

Total: 22,387

Another 1404 special votes are still to be counted.

The turnout was 54.7 per cent compared with the 82.88 per cent who voted in Mana at the 2008 general election.

Compared with 2008 figures, Labour's Mr Faafoi won 46.4 per cent against former MP Winnie Laban's 53.06 per cent. Ms Parata lifted her share of the vote from 34.99 per cent in 2008 to 41.8 per cent.

The Greens polled 6.6 per cent, down from 6.73 per cent in 2008. ACT's vote fell from 1.84 per cent to 0.6 per cent.

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