National MP Mark Mitchell is not ruling out running for the Auckland mayoralty next year, but says his focus right now is helping to bring some stability to the party caucus.
“I’m aware my name has been put out there,” the Auckland born and bred MP told the Herald.
Mitchell said he had not considered the role, but pressed on whether he would consider the mayoralty down the line, he did not rule it out.
“At this stage, no. At the moment I’m really focused on boundary changes in my electorate and doing everything in caucus to stabilise and get us moving in the right direction,” Mitchell said.
He was referring to the turmoil inside the National caucus, which has included long-serving MP Nick Smith calling its quits after suggestions of a damaging story that never appeared and the dramatic ousting of former leader Todd Muller.
The 53-year-old Mitchell is the MP for Whangaparaoa, previously known as Rodney. Born on Auckland’s North Shore, he is a former policeman, worked as a security contractor in Iraq and a former Minister of Defence.
Mitchell joins a growing list of National Party figures, including former Cabinet ministers Paula Bennett and Nikki Kaye, being talked about as contenders to end Labour’s stranglehold on the Super City Mayoralty.
Kaye has said she is not standing for the mayoralty and Bennett said: “I am not running for mayor. No ifs, no maybes. No.” Even so, rumours continue to circulate about the popular Westie putting her hat in the ring.
Next year’s race for the Auckland mayoralty will become wide open if Mayor Phil Goff decides not to seek a third term.
The former Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister is reputed to have been shoulder-tapped as New Zealand’s next Ambassador to Washington, replacing career diplomat Rosemary Banks, who has been in the role since February 2018.
Goff told the Herald last month going to Washington sometime in the future “would be an interesting option”.
He has given a commitment to complete this term as mayor and will make a decision in consultation with his wife, Mary, about what he will do at the end of the term. The couple are now grandparents and this may play a part in their decision.
After two terms under Len Brown and two terms under Goff, there is no obvious successor on the left – either inside or outside the council – capable of replacing one of New Zealand’s most experienced and hard-working politicians.
Being the mayor of a diverse city of 1.7 million residents, overseeing a multibillion-dollar budget and dealing with the multiple problems of transport, housing and the environment is one of the hardest political jobs in New Zealand.
The centre-right has a dismal track record at the Auckland mayoral elections, with none of the candidates getting more than 35 per cent of the vote. On the left, Brown and Goff have swooped up nearly half the vote.
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