Seven Labour candidates tipped to try for Mt Albert seat

By Patrick Gower

A seven-way fight is brewing within Labour's ranks for the chance to take Helen Clark's Mt Albert seat.

The Herald has learned that Labour list MP Phil Twyford has not ruled out contesting the candidacy. Mr Twyford was initially favourite for the seat, until the parliamentary hierarchy indicated they might seek someone from outside to avoid the side-effect of non-performer Judith Tizard taking up his list spot.

Mr Twyford is a Kingsland resident with long-time involvement in the Mt Albert electorate organisation that will play a major part in selecting the candidate, although Labour's national body will also be involved.

Mr Twyford declined to comment yesterday. He heads the list of seven possible candidates for the seat that has been Labour's since it was established in 1946. It has had just three MPs in that time: Helen Clark for 27 years, Warren Freer for 31 and Arthur Shapton Richards for the first year until he died in office.

Former MP and netball and rugby double-international Louisa Wall is another possible candidate but could not be reached for comment yesterday. Labour would like her to have come back in on the list for Mr Twyford, but Ms Tizard and a number of other MPs considered to have done their time stand before her.

Hamish McCracken, a 36-year-old economics lecturer from AUT, who has stood for Labour in other Auckland seats in the past two elections, confirmed his candidacy. Mr McCracken used to work for the Engineers, Printing and Manufacturing Union and can rely on some backing from them. He lives in Swanson.

Mr McCracken used to lecture in political studies at Auckland University - as Helen Clark did before becoming an MP.

Employment lawyer Helen White is another former EPMU worker. The 40-year-old lives in the electorate.

Ms White said she had "off and on" involvement with Labour. She will have to persuade party members of this as some have already deemed her an outsider.

Local councillor Glenda Fryer would not rule out standing yesterday.

The younger guard is headed by Conor Roberts, a highly regarded 28-year-old who stood for Labour in Rodney at the election.

Former Young Labour president Meg Bates, who has worked in Helen Clark's Mt Albert office, is also said to be interested but she could not be contacted yesterday.

National's possible candidates are led by list MP Melissa Lee, whom Prime Minister John Key yesterday called an "outstanding individual".

Mt Eden resident Mike Loftus, the head of marketing for AIG life insurance and former "knowledge manager" for Sparc, is also interested, using a blog to say his "big hairy goal" was to run for Mt Albert. Mr Loftus was involved in Sam Lotu-Iiga's successful campaign for Maungakiekie.

Ravi Musuku, who has twice stood unsuccessfully against Helen Clark, is also keen.

Mr Key said National would be looking for a "dynamic candidate that's committed to the local area".

In a pitch to keep the underdog status, Mr Key said it was possible that National could win the seat, but he did not want to overrate its chances.

He said it was a safe Labour seat and the only reason Labour was portraying it as otherwise "is because they are concerned about the way they might poll in a byelection".

MT ALBERT - THE CONTENDERS

Labour

- Phil Twyford. List MP was heir apparent until "Tizard dilemma".

- Louisa Wall. Former list MP didn't make it back at the election.

- Hamish McCracken. Economics lecturer at AUT. Former New Zealand fencing champion.

- Helen White. Employment lawyer, lives locally.

- Glenda Fryer. Auckland city councillor for the area.

- Conor Roberts. Public relations practitioner, former student president.

- Meg Bates. Former young Labour president.

National

- Melissa Lee. Korean-born list MP that John Key calls an "outstanding individual".

- Ravi Musuku. Has done the hard yards by standing against helen Clark in past two elections.

- Mike Loftus. Head of marketing for AIG life insurance, lives in Mt Eden.

- NZ Herald

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