Labour's candidate for the marginal Waitakere electorate, Carmel Sepuloni, believes she is more "closely connected" to the West Auckland seat than her incumbent National Party opponent, Paula Bennett.

Ms Sepuloni yesterday told the Herald she was "humbled" after winning the "huge contest" for the nomination ahead of fellow list MP Phil Twyford, community advocate Ann Pala and university lecturer Hamish McCracken.

Waitakere, which Labour lost by 600 votes in 2008, would be "a big battleground for the Labour Party" in next year's election, she said.

Ms Sepuloni, who is from Waitara in Taranaki, said Ms Bennett's local connections played some part in her victory, but "it was because of the shift that occurred toward the National Party generally".

"We're just looking forward to getting out there and doing the work, meeting the people and strengthening those relationships so that we don't put Waitakere at risk again."

Of her own links to the electorate, "it's more what the electorate looks like that I'm connected to", said Ms Sepuloni, who is of Tongan, Samoan and European descent.

"It's got a strong working-class base and quite a large Pacific population. It's got a comparatively large number of sole-parent households and generally, in terms of the people that live there, I think I'm quite capable of connecting with them."

Both women are sole parents, but Ms Sepuloni says she is "more down to Earth, more authentic, more genuine".

"Our ideology and values are quite different. There are some things she's done during her time as Minister of Social Development that I completely disagree with and I think they were rather ruthless, were at the expense of people and potentially very harmful."