Her party leader's table tennis defeat at the hands of Chronicle columnist Steve Braunias did not deter Labour candidate Steph Lewis as she launched her campaign for the Whanganui seat on Saturday.

Braunias had beaten Labour leader Andrew Little in his latest round of ping-pong politics and crowed about it loudly in Saturday's New Zealand Herald.

But defeat was furthest from Ms Lewis' mind as a celebratory mood fired up a good crowd of supporters at the Stellar bar.

Assisting with the launch of her bid to replace Chester Borrows - and the National Party - as the Whanganui electorate's representative in Parliament was Labour Party president Nigel Haworth and its finance spokesman Grant Robertson.


Also in attendance were Labour's Te Tai Hauauru MP Adrian Rurawhe; former Whanganui MP Russell Marshall, who held the seat for Labour for 18 years; and mayor Hamish McDouall, a three-time loser to Mr Borrows.

Mr Haworth - whose knowledge of Whanganui included the Collegiate cricket square and the local Pizza Hut - told the faithful there was "massive disenchantment with the government".

"People are beginning to recognise that while John Key had a big mandate and a lot of trust, he delivered nothing."

He revealed that Labour had a war chest of just under $2 million to fight the September 23 election - up from the $1.4 million for the 2014 joust.

After his address, with the candidate's life and times being projected on to a big screen, it was time to get to know Ms Lewis.

Being raised in the prison village at Kaitoke had left its mark. "I always asked why people ended up in prison," she told the audience.

"At the moment, New Zealand is building prisons and closing schools, so we have got something wrong, and that has to change."

Housing and homelessness were issues for Whanganui, she felt.

"I don't want my 13-year-old sister growing up thinking it is normal for people to sleep in cars and garages."

There were other insights into Ms Lewis - she puts her right sock on first, makes a good lemon cheesecake and likes to dunk a gingernut in her mug of tea. And she has never dyed her hair.

Her campaign will be managed by Whanganui district councillor Josh Chandulal-Mackay, who cut his teeth working for Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway.