Hauraki-Waikato MP Nanaia Mahuta accepts that her biggest challenge in bidding to become David Cunliffe's deputy will be convincing party members she has crossover appeal.
Next Tuesday, MPs will vote for either her ticket or David Shearer who isn't running an official second. Grant Robertson has put his name forward to be deputy while Shane Jones hasn't ruled out seeking the position.
Ms Mahuta has been an MP since 1996, her first term as a list member and then as a member for Maori seats which have had two boundary and name changes since 1999.
Her bid has been criticised as a cynical move to shore up Labour's Maori support.
Former Labour MP John Tamihere described it as "boxticking," suggesting a limp was the only qualifier she lacked. Ms Mahuta bit back calling him a failed politician.
It was a bolt out of the blue candidacy, not only because Ms Mahuta, daughter of late Tainui leaders Sir Robert and Lady Raiha, is known to play cards close to her chest but because no one else inside or outside the party had mentioned her as a leadership contender.
While she is recognised in the Maori electorate - her majority was 5373 - it's not clear that outside of the region that support bears up. She sees the crossover question - can she appeal to the rest of the country - as a fair one.
"I would say that would be the challenge I would have to overcome in terms of perception," she said.
"The fact that I represent a Maori seat has created a perception that I don't engage with anyone in the Pakeha community."
In her region she cites Waikato University, district councils and other educational organisations where she makes her views known and keeps abreast of issues.
She said Labour had to reconnect with "working people" which it had failed to do in this election.
It was a problem not dissimilar to her own Waikato-Tainui iwi which had been embroiled in leadership battles for the past year leaving many tribal members disengaged, she said.
Asked how Mr Cunliffe approached her to stand, she said there was an original discussion but both were focused on winning the election.
Asked if he approached her on election night, Ms Mahuta said: "Not in so many words."
That's as much as she'll say on the behind the scenes manoeuvring, but she does say Mr Cunliffe's age - he is 48, she is 41 - is a factor. She wants to be part of a younger generation leading change and making the party a "credible alternative" to National.
The six-member Maori caucus, could hold the crucial swing votes.
The Herald understands Labour's Maori council, made up of regional party members, meets on Saturday but members have made it clear they want a block vote for Ms Mahuta.
One council member said the support was largely out of loyalty and not an outright backing of Mr Cunliffe.
But Ms Mahuta said she won't count on those numbers "as of right".
"I think Maori members are entitled to have their own view about what is required for the future of leadership."