Former Prime Minister John Key has put his weight behind Christopher Luxon after the ex Air New Zealand chief announced his intention to run for National in Auckland.
But rogue MP Jami-Lee Ross – who currently holds the seat Luxon wants – has thrown down the gauntlet and called his former party "arrogant".
Luxon's future with the party has been the subject of much speculation since he announced in June that he would leaving the airline.
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He had previously indicated he was interested in a future in politics, and his natural political home would be National.
In a statement on Thursday, Luxon confirmed he would be putting himself forward as the National candidate in the Botany electorate from 2020.
"I have a great affinity for and connection with having grown up in the area attending local primary, intermediate and high schools," he said.
"I look forward to the robust democratic selection process ahead with the local membership ... should I ultimately be selected by the members in Botany as their National Party candidate I will happily talk publicly then."
The seat is safely blue, but is currently held by independent MP Ross, who resigned from National in a fiery and public falling-out with leader Simon Bridges last year.
Replying to the announcement, Ross said he believed he could beat Luxon and lashed out at his former party.
"It's arrogant for National to believe they can fix their leadership problems by parachuting someone in who will automatically win an electorate seat," he said.
"While Botany people know they have in me someone who sits in the middle of both parties and will work with either side to advance local issues, others see themselves racing to Wellington to advance their own personal aspirations the day after an election."
A National Party spokesperson said it was looking forward to "receiving Mr Luxon's candidate application for the Botany Electorate in due course".
But he has already received a ringing endorsement from Key, also a member of Air New Zealand's board.
"Chris is a world class candidate," Key said in a statement on Thursday.
"He provides direct proof that such a powerful and effective opposition as National is a magnet for talent."
Luxon in June told Newstalk ZB he was not "John Key 2.0", but added the former PM had encouraged him to stand for National.
The speculation escalated when Christchurch businessman Steve Brooks took out a half-page ad in the Herald featuring an image of John Key morphing into Luxon.
National Party leader Simon Bridges also had a chat with Luxon at the end of June but was not actively courting him. Bridges' office declined to comment on Thursday, saying it was a matter for the party.
Asked earlier whether Luxon would make a good party leader or Prime Minister, Bridges said: "Let's see what happens. Let's be fair to the guy and let's see if he gets to Parliament first."
Luxon was chairman of the business advisory group that advises Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and Ardern was happy for him to continue in that role until he left Air NZ.
She has said she had no concerns about whether Luxon might run for the National Party in the future.