Expected close race ends up anything but

Labour’s Ingrid Leary has entered Parliament as the member for the new Taieri electorate. PHOTO:...
Labour’s Ingrid Leary has entered Parliament as the member for the new Taieri electorate. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
The new seat of Taieri was expected to be a close contest, but the Labour landslide propelled its candidate, Ingrid Leary, to a dominant win.

Ms Leary’s 22,225 votes were almost twice as many as her National rival Liam Kernaghan’s 11,593 — a dispiriting result for National in a seat in which it had held high hopes of doing well.

Ms Leary, a former journalist and lawyer, has literally had the baton passed to her by former Dunedin South MP Clare Curran — as well as flowers, Ms Curran sent Ms Leary a red baton to mark her victory.

"I had to work really hard to win over the Labour members for the selection,” Ms Leary said.

“The Labour members are staunch Labour, they are stalwarts, they can see through anything that is not authentic.

“That was a big job and I knew if I could win them over then I could win the people of this electorate over.”

Ms Leary said an incredible effort by party volunteers had secured her victory.

"We weren’t taking anything for granted, there were the boundary changes and also the name change, which was very significant for a lot of people, and then there was me as a new and unknown candidate.

"Our response to that was to go hard and go early and we have been campaigning for many months."

Ms Leary, a mother of three, received some criticism from her opponents for coming to Dunedin from Auckland to contest the seat.

"To me that was an indication that they didn’t have anything else to attack me on," she said.

Covering politics as a journalist it had always seemed a "nasty" environment, but the leadership style of Labour leader Jacinda Ardern had made her change her mind about a political career, Ms Leary said.

"She showed a new style of leadership and that was what got me thinking maybe this is for me, if politics can be done differently and people can disagree with each other respectfully, maybe that is an environment that I can make a contribution in.

"I chose Taieri because I had lived in Dunedin before and I love the city."

While Labour had a large caucus to keep busy, Ms Leary hoped she would have a role in justice, social enterprise, or seniors issues.

Mr Kernaghan, a former National Parliamentary staff member who quit to return home and run for Parliament, had no regrets about his choice.

"In a tidal wave of red it was always going to be hard; this was my first shot at it and if I’m lucky enough to have another go at it in three years time I’m looking forward to that.

"I’m having a relaxing day with family today, come tomorrow I’m out looking for a job and whatever the next thing might be."

While Mr Kernaghan was well beaten, he did take some encouragement from the fact his personal vote was just over 3000 higher than the National party vote.

"Obviously there was some support for me as a candidate, which was encouraging, but when you look at the party votes we were almost 60 to 20 Labour to National, a 40% difference is pretty significant and was always going to be hard to overcome."

It was a good night for Act New Zealand, which recorded the third highest total of party votes, 2936 — in the former Dunedin South seat in 2017, it managed just 116.

However, it was a disappointing night for Lawrence farmer Mark Patterson, who came fourth in the electorate race and failed to return to Parliament as a list MP after New Zealand First failed to make the 5% threshold.

Electorate vote

1.Ingrid Leary, Labour, 22,225
(Majority 10,632)
2.Liam Kernaghan, National, 11,593
3.Scott Willis, Green, 1717
4.Mark Patterson, New Zealand First 1174.

Party vote

1.Labour 23,210
2.National 8505
3.Act New Zealand 2936
4.Green 2033

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