The day after the election, and with very few hours' sleep, Steph Lewis was still in shock over her 6800 majority in the Whanganui electorate.
"I thought it was going to be very, very close. I never in my wildest dreams expected a majority like that," she said.
On Sunday morning Lewis was about to give out prizes at a barbecue for her campaign team. At 11.30 the previous night she had a phone call from the party, expecting her to be in Wellington at 9am this morning.
After the barbecue she packed up the car and headed for Wellington.
She doesn't expect to be in the Labour Cabinet during her first term, but Lewis has a passion for regional economic development and some day would love to be its minister.
The regions felt neglected in 2017, she said, and not everybody wanted to live in a big city.
"The quality of life, in my opinion, is much better here than in those main urban centres."
Her election success could be due to Labour's work in the regions during the past three years, or it could be due to hard work by her campaign team. They knocked on 6000 doors, made 15,000 phone calls, held street corner meetings and had stalls at the Whanganui, Hāwera and Stratford markets.
The general swing toward Labour would have helped and she said the performance of incumbent MP Harete Hipango could also have something to do with it.
But Lewis concedes being an MP is tough.
"It's not an easy job. I'm going to give it my absolute best."
She took an interest in Labour politics growing up and was selected as Youth MP for Jill Pettis. She didn't join the Labour Party until her husband Rob Carr, now an advisor to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, roped her into campaigning for Annette King.
After that she tried setting up a youth branch in Whanganui because she intended to return and get a job here.
She finished university in 2011 with a BA in anthropology and political science, a law degree and a further year of economics study. She's now the chairwoman of Labour's economic development policy committee.
After university she worked as an employment advocate, an adviser, an investigator and a lawyer. Earlier this year she was working for New Zealand Customs, and unexpectedly became the only person who could advise it on privacy when Covid tracing began.
"It certainly felt like we were in the thick of it."
She and her husband bought a house in central Whanganui in March and were able to move into it in mid-May. She left the Customs job in June to campaign full time.
"It's been a long time between pay cheques," she said.
Now her life will be divided between Wellington, where she and her husband own a house, and Whanganui. Its exact contours still have to be figured out.
She has a mother and three sisters here, and she wants to keep her 2-year-old daughter Scarlett out of the public eye. She uses her Lewis surname to maintain a political identity separate from her private life.
She was brought up at Pauri Village, because her father was an officer at Whanganui Prison. She was about 8 when the village was dismantled. Her family moved to Waverley then, because they had bought the last farm on Omahina Rd.
It was a real backblocks farm and making it profitable was challenging. Lewis knows what it's like when the wool cheque barely pays for the shearing.
She wants everyone in the electorate to have a decent job with decent pay, and access to quality health care and education. And she wants jobs available for young people.
"Those aren't goals that will be achieved in three years."
She plans to be a hardworking and approachable MP whose door is always open. Ideally she would like to have offices in Stratford and Hāwera, as well as Whanganui.