Seven mayoral candidates faced off in the hub last week in the hopes of winning the coveted student vote. K-Rob and Little J somewhat savagely assessed their performances so you don’t have to.
Justin ‘Trudeau’ Lester
All it took was a smile and the students were putty in his hands.
After rattling off his life story—which if you’ve seen him speak a handful of times you might know by heart—Lester proceeded to present himself as a real crusader for students. He presented himself as a passionate advocate for the Rental WoF and VUWSA’s Fairer Fares campaign. Perhaps the most interesting takeaway from Lester’s spiel, for those who are already well-versed on his buzz, was that he plans on taking over the arts portfolio once elected. I have no idea what kind of credentials he has for this or whether it would be a wise strategic decision, but we’ll give him ten points for enthusiasm—and worst case scenario Nicola Young will be waiting in the wings, ready to step up to the plate.
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Lester gets bonus points for not once mentioning the much-despised phrase “rate payer”—a title many of us millennials may never be able to claim—and for being the only candidate to know the average weekly rent for a flat in the Kelburn / Aro Valley area. Should he lose out on the top job, no doubt students would be happy to take him on as VUWSA President—Kate.
Nicola Yung Lean
Cultural maven Nicola Young wins the coveted runner-up spot for being the only candidate who didn’t appear dead inside. Having been to all the same debates as other candidates, Young was more spritely than all of them put together.
She talked about how cold flats were unacceptable, saying her children’s asthma has made her hyper-aware of the effects that poor housing can have on students’ health. It was a statement that felt genuine and filled with love, but if we’re being honest chlamydia probably affects more students than asthma—just sayin’.
Knowing exactly how much a bus fare cost for an adult in Wellington also played well for her, surprising audience members and proving that even rich people take the bus. Salient can neither confirm nor deny that Nicola Yung Lean has ever taken a Metlink bus.
The only thing Young loses points for is talking about rates just a few too many times. Even if it does make their rent go up, students deep in the rental game still don’t want to hear about them—Kate.
Let’s Go Jo Coughlan
Much like Lester, Let’s Go Jo’s policies were well rehearsed and felt like they had been told a million times. Her six children—three of whom have been through or are currently at university—are her weapon of choice to claim relatability.
With Wellington becoming increasingly like a “little Manhattan,” Go Jo wants affordable social housing, more business investments in the tech sector, and a new venue, bigger than TSB Arena but smaller than Westpac Stadium, no doubt to house all of the Flume, Troye Sivan, and Ellie Goulding gigs we’ve been missing out on. Go Jo tried to clear up confusion around her supposedly telling Renters United she was against a Rental WoF while telling VUWSA she supported it. He said, she said. She seemed to support the WoF on the day and I suppose that’s all that matters.
Coughlan does however lose points for thinking that it only cost $1 to travel one zone on the bus, and for implying that university students don’t know how to vote using the single transferrable vote system, mum-splaining that it “wasn’t just ticking a box.” Omg Mum we know how to vote and I will unload the dishwasher soon. Ugh.
Note: All candidates could learn a thing or two about voter engagement from @JoForMayor. There can be no denying her when she said she’s learned more about social media during the campaign than at any other point in her life. Takin’ a sweet ‘gram ain’t easy, so kudos to you Go Jo—Kate.
Handy Andy Foster
Dark horse Andy Foster slides into fourth place not only because of his uncanny resemblance to Jason Gunn, but for coming across as an all-round super genuine dude. Disadvantaged from the get go after some cringey tech difficulties, Foster clawed his way back by convincingly promising to make our already great city “even better.”
Handy Andy calls himself a “details man” and thinks the council needs some serious legislative assistance. He also thinks the way we vote for local body elections is pretty archaic, and he used the example of people overseas not being able to vote. Tbh most of us couldn’t afford to go on a Vic OE, so this was a niche and privileged example that was probably lost on most students.
The coolest idea he had was a “Welcome to Wellington” package that would see students new to the city given some cool treats, information on how to properly recycle so you don’t get blacklisted, and other super grown up things that students transitioning out of halls and home can struggle with.
Handy Andy is the campaign’s metaphoric tortoise. He’s slowly and steadily earning the respect of voters, but not quite fast enough. We predict he’ll still be crawling through the Terrace Tunnel while the new mayor is standing triumphantly in Civic Square—Jennie.
Helene Ritchie is the Wellington City Council version of Angela Stone from Real Housewives of Auckland. The third ‘e’ in her name seems to be just as redundant as her role on the council, but that didn’t stop her giving off a strong talk back radio vibe and accusing millennials of not knowing where the nearest postbox is (PSA: There’s one at Vic Books on Kelburn campus).
Ritchie threw some serious shade when she was accused of not having signed VUWSA’s Student Friendly Wellington pledge, but was no match for VUWSA President Jonathan Gee and Radio New Zealand’s Michael Cropp who truth-slammed her WWE-style. Ritchie went on to mumble what we believe were expletives towards the pair under her breath, already plotting her revenge.
There was more than one round of pity claps for Helene, but she was far too concerned about how students these days don’t get to experience the “big, buff, burly dustmen” like the ones who used to collect her rubbish to notice their insincerity—Jennie.
Nick Leggett back to Porirua
Ahhh, Mr Porirua. If I’m being perfectly honest I don’t really remember a lot of what Nick said. He seemed to come across as monotonous and disinterested, just like we were.
Leggett based his argument around “new energy and new leadership,” a slogan I’m 93% sure is on the back of the buses with his face on them. He thought it was “appalling” that student bus fares aren’t subsidised and was very concerned about the number of third world diseases we’re seeing re-enter New Zealand, something he believes poor housing plays a significant role in.
He raised the issue of e-voting which was valid, but probably still managed to dis the easily-offended baby grown ups by saying “young people don’t engage with the letterbox.” Mate I was an RA, I know how sensitive these 18 year old’s egos are.—Kate.
Old Mate Keith Johnson
Old Mate K actually exists in real life! Yas! The first we’d seen of the mysterious candidate and I immediately knew that I could trust man in pleather shoes with velcro fastenings. Old Mate K proved that as a candidate it is still possible to be totally hip and down with the kids, trying super hard to engage with the youth vote. He wants to offer “relief” for students experiencing hardship and see less “lolly scrambling” from the council, and we truly believed him. There’s a sincerity to the guy that makes us feel low key sad that he has little chance of winning.
In between talking policy, Old Mate K managed to drop in some stats about his dope blog—firstname.lastname@example.org—from which Salient learned many things. Like this thing: Old Mate is not only a doctor of economics, but also a doctor of luuuurve, with poetry that hit us right in the feels.
Keith wins quote of the day with the absolute banger of a mission statement—“Gotta get warm and gotta get healthy.” Billboard that shit—Jennie.