National MPs David Bennett and Tim Macindoe paint Hamilton blue
It's a blue affair for Hamilton as National candidates David Bennett and Tim Macindoe convincingly retained their seats in Saturday night's general election.
The pair fended off Labour's Jamie Strange, a now a freshly minted MP thanks to the party list, and latecomer Gaurav Sharma.
Bennett, who enters Parliament for a fifth-term as Hamilton East MP, watched the votes mount up in his favour at the Wanderers Football Club with a group of strong supporters.
His partner, Bridget McKenzie - a senator for The Nationals in Victoria, Australia - had pulled on her blue blazer; she herself understanding the pressure of the past few months.
Bennett, Minister for Food Safety, Veterans' Affairs and Racing in the last Government, was relieved on the night.
"Politics is a difficult game. There are ups and downs and you never know what is going to happen next, and you never know public opinion until the final poll comes in.
"So, of course you do have moments when you go, what is actually happening and where do we stand?"
While a coalition is formed, Bennett will recover after months on the trail.
"I'm buggered, so I'm going to rest. I don't know what is going to happen now as it's not an obvious equation."
Hamilton West MP Tim Macindoe celebrated his fourth term with a red wine at the Gallaghers Building on Kahikatea Drive among volunteers and supporters.
National held 58 seats by the night's end, and Hamilton West appeared to have retained the bellwether status it has kept through 15 of the 16 elections it has existed.
"I'm particularly thrilled that I've matched Martin Gallagher's record of being elected for a fourth term in Hamilton West," Macindoe said.
With coalition talks to come, he will spend the next fortnight with his wife in Canada, visiting their youngest daughter.
"It's been a pretty demanding campaign. It's been full on twenty-four seven for quite a long time now. I think we're ready for a break."
At Labour's Hamilton headquarters, Waikato Trade Union Centre, it was a muted mood as the around 30 supporters watched National lead throughout the night.
Hamilton East candidate Jamie Strange said early on he was looking not at a win, but at denting Bennett's majority.
"I've got to be realistic - there's a 10,000 majority currently."
Ending the night at just shy of 11,000 votes, with Bennett leading by 5500 votes, Strange had almost halved Bennett's lead in 2014.
It's the result of a year-long campaign. Selected in September 2016, he marked a car with his face shortly after and has since put up 300 signs, knocked on 22,000 doors and projected himself over Facebook live videos.
"We certainly couldn't have done more, that's for sure ... In 2020, I believe that I'll win Hamilton East."
At 36 on the Labour list, the second-time candidate has become a first-time MP and says it'll be an honour to head to Wellington on Monday.
Labour's Hamilton West candidate, Gaurav Sharma, had 10 and a half weeks to campaign after previous candidate and longstanding MP Sue Moroney lost the support of Labour leadership in April.
"We started with no money in the bank and no volunteers because of … everything."
Moroney's ousting clearly caused some tension in the Labour camp, with a divide visible during Saturday night's party.
The 12-year MP's well-numbered posse, which included Hamilton City Councillor Dave Macpherson, sat under the lights near the tables of cheese, white bread and fruit. Sharma sat with noticeably fewer supporters on a darker side of the room.
Joining the party in January and at 69 on the list, it was an all-or-nothing campaign for the budding politician.
But Sharma was happy with almost maintaining Labour's votes in the electorate. He claimed 9247 votes on the night, not quite matching Moroney's 11,598 the election prior.
"It does take a while for a while to recognise who a candidate is … if I had more time, it would definitely be a different game."