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Nats and Labour make choices for Botany

Published: 9:08PM Thursday January 27, 2011 Source: ONE News

Jami-Lee Ross has been selected as the National Party candidate to contest the Botany by-election.

After five rounds of voting it was a two-horse race between Auckland councillor Ross and broadcaster Maggie Barry.

Ross is a long-time National supporter having worked as an electorate secretary in Pakuranga.

Political commentators earlier described the 25-year-old as the front runner, as he would attract young voters that National hasn't been able to capture before.

No candidate received 50% of the vote in earlier rounds of voting, requiring a number of ballots.

The first to go was Ed Saafi, knocked out in ballot one of voting while Darron Gedge got the chop in the third ballot. The fourth ballot saw the demise of one of the favourites, former Auckland councillor Aaron Bhatnagar.

Maggie Barry, who had made a surprise bid for the seat a week before selections were finalised, was knocked out in the final ballot. 

Ross says he is humbled by the selection.

"For Botany this by-election is about giving the community a strong voice in John Key's government... I will be a fierce advocate for commonsense management of the economy that does not leave our kids up to their eyeballs in debt. I strongly support the government's efforts to blunt the sharp edges of the recession for vulnerable Kiwis, and greatly admire the way the Prime Minister has faced up to some extremely testing times in his first two years," Ross said in a statement.

"While Botany is considered to be a strong National seat, I head into this by-election taking nothing for granted and knowing that I have to earn the respect and trust of an electorate that was served so well by the hard-working MP Pansy Wong."

Ross has lived in Botany since 2006. He is the current Auckland Councillor representing Botany and prior to that he was the Manukau City Councillor representing northern Botany (since 2004). He has been a National Party member since 2003.

He holds a pilot's licence and has a Diploma in Communications from the Manukau Institute of Technology.

Labour's choice

Earlier, Labour announced its candidate to contest the Botany seat, selecting Michael Wood.

Labour Party President Andrew Little said there were two excellent nominees who put themselves forward but Wood got the nod. Wood is a former Finsec National Organiser and father to two sons. He is an elected member of Puketapapa Local Board (Auckland Council) and a former Labour Candidate for Pakuranga in 2002 and 2005.

Wood said he was honoured to be the party's candidate.

"This week the National Government announced its plans to sell off our assets and I am determined to fight these plans and let the people of Botany know how they can be part of Labour's campaign to oppose this ridiculous privatisation agenda," he said.

The Labour Party selection meeting took place at the Pakuranga Country Club.

The March 5 by-election was forced by the resignation of National MP Pansy Wong, who quit her post amid allegations she misused her parliamentary travel perk.

Five candidates made it through the final process for National, with Maggie Barry, former Auckland councillor Aaron Bhatnagar, Jami-lee Ross, Elim Christian College teacher Darron Gedge and research scientist Edward Saafi all keen to represent the traditionally safe National seat.

National Party President Peter Goodfellow said the strong field who put their names forward showed the National Party "is in great shape" with plenty of new talent who are keen to get involved.

"For Botany, this by-election is about maintaining a strong voice in John Key's government so it can grow the economy, create jobs, make our communities safer, and deliver on critical infrastructure like broadband, roads and rail."

Three nominees initially put up their hand to represent Labour - management consultant Roy Bootle, electrician David Collings, and former union organiser Wood.

Little said before the vote that Labour doesn't expect to win the "safe National seat" but will be using the by-election as an opportunity to promote policies, issues and values.

"Each candidate has a depth of experience and skills in the Botany and local region," Little said.

Meanwhile, people in the Botany electorate are being reminded to enrol or update their enrolment details to make voting as easy as possible in the by-election.

February 1 is the cut off date for voters to enrol.