National Party candidate for Mt Albert Melissa Lee says she does want to win the by-election, despite earlier saying she was hoping and expecting to come second.

Ms Lee has had a dire campaign after a verbal slip saw her painted a racist when she told a public meeting a new motorway would divert South Auckland criminals past the area.

She was also mired in allegations, which she has now been cleared of, that she wrongly used public funding to make a National Party video.

The latest controversy was sparked by comments on Radio New Zealand this morning when Ms Lee said she did not expect to win the by-election.

Asked if she thought she could come second she said: "I am hoping to. It would be really fantastic if I nudge in a little further as well but I am not expecting to win. It was always going to be a hard battle."

Asked directly if she expected to come second she answered: "yes".

Ms Lee said she was talking about the media expectation, not her own.

"I am not in this game to lose," she said.

NZPA put it to her the radio interviewer did not discuss media expectation around her chances, but asked her for her own opinion.

"I think it was a case of I am expecting to come second, at least," Ms Lee said.

"I am actually doing the best job I can, I am actually going out meeting the people of Mt Albert. I wouldn't be spending so much time doing this if I thought I was going to come second."

It was always going to be a tough battle, but she would not be missing out on spending time with her son if she thought there was no chance of winning.

"I am not putting in all these hours and putting up with media trying to come second, I am not. I am trying to win this damn thing."

Asked if she was concerned the comment would be seen as another verbal gaffe Ms Lee said the news media were not reporting sentiment in Mt Albert, where people had been sympathetic and supportive.

She thought the news media had been harder on her than other candidates, such as Labour's David Shearer and Greens co-leader Russel Norman.

Mr Shearer made a comment on Auckland Indian television programme Roopa, talking about unemployment and mentioning migrant groups before linking unemployment to becoming criminals.

He said it was important to have skills and training to keep people in work.

Dr Norman called for civil disobedience over the new motorway, but insisted he meant legal opposition.

"Why are you so focused on my apparent gaffe...did Norman get the kind of media attention that he should have?

"And did Mr Shearer's comment at a local television station saying that ethnic communities and unemployed people would become criminals - did that get the same kind of media attention?"

Asked why she thought she was being singled out Ms Lee said there was huge interest in the by-election.

She said she had faced allegations her about her production company but when cleared by NZ On Air there was little coverage.

Her comments seemed to get greater prominence.

"That is for the people to made a judgement call on, media obviously know what they are doing, but you know I am not focusing on media I am focusing on the people of Mt Albert."

Asked about Ms Lee's comments a spokesman for Prime Minister John Key said: "We've always said it would be a tough ask but in the end it's for the Mt Albert voters decide."

ACT candidate John Boscawen said Ms Lee had effectively conceded and he was now the only centre-right candidate.

Dr Norman said his party was probably more an underdog than National but he was keen to win the seat.

"The issues facing Mt Albert are core Green issues that also affect greater Auckland all of New Zealand.

"The people of Mt Albert need a serious candidate and I'm serious about representing Mt Albert."

- NZPA