Murmurings usually develop mid-political cycle with intentions signalled a year out, but in this mayoral cycle speculation has started much earlier.
Two respected strong right-leaning women will be an interesting race to watch - the seasoned Wellington politician versus the highly respected deputy mayor of Auckland.
Not since Christine Fletcher served one term as Mayor of Auckland City at the turn of the century, has the imagination on the right been ignited by the chattering classes - and it looks set to continue over summer barbeques.
Who might be the big financial backers, who is supporting who, and the vision and tone for 2025, have all been part of the gossip.
Simpson, whom media have described as leaving Mayor Wayne Brown in the shade when it came to dealing with the floods earlier this year, told Spy she was flattered by the speculation after a hard year’s grind. She wouldn’t confirm she would stand but Spy understands she may indeed throw her hat in the ring.
Simpson is married to rich-lister and former National Party president Peter Goodfellow and lives and breathes politics. She tells Spy she doesn’t need to work but does her job because she loves Auckland.
”I’m committed to Auckland, which is why I accepted the mayor’s offer to be his deputy.
”It’s been a challenging year for the region and at this stage I’m looking forward to continuing to work with the mayor and my fellow councillors on the important issues we have ahead of us.”
It is understood a formal announcement on Bennett’s plan would be made next November.
The former deputy prime minister, who retired from Parliament at the 2020 general election, told Spy this week: “I didn’t consider the mayoralty last time. A lot of people asked me to but I wasn’t ready, needing a break from public life.”
Bennett now works as strategic advisory director for real estate company Bayley’s commercial and industrial property division.
”I am loving Bayleys and concentrating on family. My dad passed this year and I have been really lucky to have time with my mum.
“I am just looking forward to summer and love what I am doing. No plans at this stage.”
When told the seasonal chatter was getting very loud about herself and Simpson, Bennett said: “Desley would be fantastic”.
There was speculation in last year’s mayoral race that Bennett may run. In June, Herald political editor Claire Trevett reported whispers Bennett was talking to people about a 2025 run.
Since leaving the Wellington beltway, Bennett has gone from politician to media personality. In 2021 Bennett started hosting charades show Give Us a Clue and last year played the matriarch on real estate reality show Rich Listers on Bravo but is not coming back for the upcoming second season.
Bennett also has a podcast and a column with the Herald and is a regular panellist on Three’s AM Show.
Simpson, councillor for Orakei, assumed office in 2016, and was the highest-polling councillor in last year’s election. She has said she prides herself on her work ethic and relationships with fellow councillors and has contributed over 400 Facebook updates on everything from infrastructure to the promotion of local and Auckland-wide events.
In her November newsletter on her website, Simpson describes her first year as deputy mayor and the grind that has dominated her time.
”Rain, rain, more rain, floods, landslips, shootings, sinkholes, broken sewage pipes, budget shortfalls and everything in between.
”However, throughout all the chaos, it is you, Aucklanders, that have kept me going.”