McKelvie wins Rangitīkei seat with confidence
The votes are in and the Rangitīkei seat is firmly staying blue for another three years.
Rangitīkei MP Ian McKelvie had a landslide win with 18,807 votes, a margin of 9664 over Labour candidate Heather Warren with 9143 votes.
McKelvie said it was a good result for Rangitīkei and for the National Party, which is in a strong position ahead of negotiations to form the next Government.
"I think we've probably done quite well and I think if you'd looked seven or eight weeks ago, I was quite nervous about where we were at. So I'm probably reasonably pleased."
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The atmosphere at McKelvie's Orlando Country Club party was full of clapping, cheering and cake, as his voting numbers pulled well ahead of his five other opponents.
Although McKelvie took the lead early, he said both Labour's Heather Warren and Rob Stevenson, who stood for NZ First, did pretty well compared with how the parties had performed in Rangitīkei in the past.
"I think [Heather] was probably reasonably pleased with herself and so she should be. She sort of battled away."
McKelvie thanked his team and wife Sue for their efforts along the campaign.
However, he said the results thrown up by the MMP system may not be clear for a while yet.
"You never know with these things. It changes so much.
"I'll be nervous until about next Saturday."
Nephew Ben McKelvie said it was good to see National dominant.
He said the votes showed National was the more consistent party, with Labour only picking up momentum in the past few weeks.
However, he predicted Winston Peters' NZ First Party would side with Labour.
REDUCING THE GAP
Warren said she called McKelvie and congratulated him on the win.
The Labour candidate spent the evening at home watching the election race unfold on television, alongside family, her campaign team and 8-week-old baby Eva.
It had not quite been the campaign Warren had planned, with Eva arriving earlier than expected. She was in hospital during the period she had intended to be out door-knocking, she said.
Warren admitted she had not been confident she could win the seat, which has been held by National for decades.
She said her focus had been to push the party vote.
Warren said she was happy to see the margin reduce, from Labour getting about 6000 votes in 2014 to just over 9000 in 2017.
Reducing the gap between the parties had been her overall goal, she said.
"I feel that we have had some success in this area."
Labour's campaign had gone back to its early roots of health, housing and education, which she hoped would convince former supporters to return to the fold.
The party vote in the electorate had National on 53 per cent, with Labour back on 28 per cent.
Although the Labour Party did not pull away with a win on the night, Warren said it did better than it would have done seven weeks ago.
Rangitīkei's other candidates were well behind. NZ First's Rob Stevenson had 2611 votes, Green candidate Robin McCandless 1686 votes, Conservative Party's Cedric Backhouse 190 votes, and ACT's Neil Wilson 189.
BRIDGING THE GAP
Stevenson, who was watching the results in Palmerston North with city MP Darroch Ball, said he had put 13,827 kilometres on his ute during the campaign.
"I knew the Taihape area very well, but I had to get to the south of the electorate, he said. "It's fantastic to get out and meet people from all walks of life."
He was keen to run again in three years' time, as the party was going from strength to strength, he said.
"One thing we have to do is bridge that rural and urban divide that came up in the last four or five weeks. I'm very passionate about bridging that gap."
PARTY VOTE THE FOCUS
McCandless, who lives on the Kāpiti Coast, watched the results with Green Party faithful in Palmerston North.
The campaign had been tough, with his electric car chalking up 30,000km since he decided to stand for the party in Rangitīkei.
He would have to talk to his family before standing in the electorate again, as he had spent many nights away from home due to its large size, he said.
The Rangitīkei seat has been blue since the 1938 election, with the exception of 1978-1984, when it was held by Bruce Beetham of the Social Credit Party.
McKelvie, a former mayor of Manawatū District, has held the seat since 2011.
There are 55,820 eligible number of voters in the Rangitīkei electorate. About 48,147 people were enrolled.
At the last election, McKelvie beat the Labour candidate, Deborah Russell, by 11,060 votes.
Warren is a Tertiary Education Union worker and former teacher.
Stevenson, a farmer, stood for NZ First.
Wilson, of ACT, contested the electorate for the second time. He has been working with the party since 1996, when he stood in Mana.
Backhouse, from Rongotea, stood for the Conservative Party. Backhouse has been dairy farming in the region for 12 years.