Bridges wins National nomination for Tauranga
The National Party has chosen Simon Bridges to contest the Tauranga electorate seat at the general election.
Mr Bridges is a crown prosecutor in Tauranga and was the local party electorate chairman over the last few years.
He beat off three other candidates in the first ballot.
Mr Bridges replaces Bob Clarkson who stood down from re-election after wrestling the seat from New Zealand First leader Winston Peters in 2005.
The seat could be crucial in the coming election as Mr Peters is considering trying to regain his old electorate fortress in case NZ First does not get 5 per cent of the party vote at the next election.
The selection of Mr Bridges, who is highly regarded within the party, indicates National does not intend giving NZ First an easy ride in the coming election.
The nomination became available after Mr Clarkson performed a total about-face and announced he would be stepping down at the election because he was sick of Parliament.
Only a few months ago the 69-year-old – who is known for speaking his mind regardless of whether it might appear inappropriate – said he was relishing the idea of standing in Tauranga against Mr Peters again.
But after reconsidering his future, Mr Clarkson pulled the plug and stepped aside to let somebody else try to win the seat for National.
He said he was happy to make room for a "younger candidate".
Mr Bridges is 31.
Mr Peters is yet to formally declare if he will stand in Tauranga or elsewhere.
The selection of Mr Bridges completes the process of National nominating candidates for electorate seats.
It is yet to decide when it will it put forward a party list, but this is unlikely before an election date is known.