Auckland mayoral contest a shambles for the right

By Bernard Orsman

Mayoral candidate Mark Thomas is predicting Phil Goff will win
Mayoral candidate Mark Thomas is predicting Phil Goff will win

The Super City elections are going pear-shaped for Auckland's political right with one mayoral candidate Mark Thomas predicting victory for Labour's Phil Goff.

Thomas yesterday said he had been asked to withdraw from the Auckland mayoral race but is staying in the race.

Another centre-right candidate, John Palino, said an accommodation may have been possible "but it's too late now". He, too, is staying in the race.

A recent Spinoff/SSI poll showing Goff has twice the combined support of Vic Crone, Palino and Thomas has failed to galvanise the right, which has been unable to unite behind one mayoral candidate and one political ticket after big failures at the 2010 and 2013 elections.

The poll had Goff with 60.3 per cent support among those who expressed a preference, followed by Crone (15.5 per cent), Palino (8 per cent), Penny Bright (4.6 per cent) and Thomas (3.3 per cent).

Thomas said he had been approached by four or five different people to withdraw but would not "because I am not a quitter", nor would be breach faith with people who supported him.

"A Goff win seems inevitable unless Aucklanders get engaged" said Thomas, who plans to use the remaining weeks of the campaign to "make people aware of the lack of change a Phil Goff mayoralty will bring".

Yesterday, Thomas began placing red stickers over his billboards saying "PHIL GOFF = MORE OF THE SAME". He plans to stand again for the mayoralty in 2019.

Crone said Thomas' surprise announcement was very confusing.

"He is saying he has given up but wants to have another run in 2019."

Crone said it would have been good for the centre-right to unite and give Auckland what its needs and deserve, but her focus was to keep fighting right to the end.

The Herald understand Crone's campaign is struggling financially. Last month, she sent a letter to supporters seeking donations of $1500. A source close to her campaign said Crone has been trying to rustle up $10,000 for television advertising.

Crone said she had been fundraising unashamedly to get her name out there. Supporters had been incredibly generous - "sometimes they said 'yes' and sometimes 'no'", she said.

Meanwhile, three centre-right councillors, Penny Webster, Linda Cooper and Bill Cashmore, have signed a confidence and supply agreement with Auckland Future, the new centre-right ticket that has pledged to cap rates at 2 per cent, slash staff and running costs and pay down debt.

The three councillors have committed to voting as a block with Auckland Future on budgetary matters, according to the agreement.

Cashmore said he would work on a common policy but it would be irresponsible to sign the pledge. Cooper and Webster said the three had agreed to work with Auckland Future on issues and, where possible, vote together.

Cashmore and Cooper, both National Party members, and Webster, a former Act MP, have been staunch supporters of Mayor Len Brown's fiscal policies. Cashmore devised a targeted transport rate that increased household rates by 4.4 per cent to 9.9 per cent last year.

- NZ Herald

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