How major campaigns won and lost Auckland City Hall

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By Todd Niall, Auckland’s Senior Business Reporter

Auckland Mayor-elect Wayne Brown with his wife Toni during their campaign event in Ponsonby today.

Auckland Mayor-elect Wayne Brown with his wife Toni during their campaign event in Ponsonby yesterday.
Photo: RNZ / Lucy Xia

Analysis – In the end, it was a beating. Aucklanders had a clear choice between two starkly different mayoral candidates, Wayne Brown and Efeso Collins, and resolutely followed Brown’s path.

With voter turnout again low, Brown’s 144,619 votes easily eclipsed Collins, who tallied 89,811 in the provisional tally. So much for a tight race.

If you had attended the launch of Wayne Brown’s mayor of Auckland campaign in late March, you would never have picked him to be the winner just over six months later.

Brown couldn’t use the PowerPoint remote, his team argued over whether copies of his speech should have been printed, and when Stuff tried to find the campaign contact, no one recognized him.

The former Far North District mayor, property developer and professional manager had played down talk of an imminent launch, telling Stuff days before his public offering that he hadn’t decided yet.

The launch showed that was clearly wrong. While the Brown Technology interface was wonky, it was clear that significant amounts had been spent on the digital presentation, website and campaign design.

Shortly before 2 p.m. on Saturday, Brown won a resounding victory, winning perhaps 40 percent of the mayoral vote, almost as much as the margins enjoyed by his left-leaning predecessors in four elections.

“It’s a mandate for Auckland to decide what they need,” he told onlookers, hitting the podium.

“Wellington’s job is to listen to what Auckland wants and fund it, not impose ideological schemes like billions of dollars on light rail, Three Waters and unwanted housing intensification,” he said. declared.

Brown is likely to enjoy the backing of a board that, pending the outcome of interim results soon, appears to have strayed from the majority supporting his past progressive path.

It remains unclear how he will pursue certain campaign policies, such as extracting a $400 million dividend from the council-owned port company.

Brown will have to be a quick learner – he didn’t even know there was a mayor’s car, which he won’t be using.

His road to the most elected role in New Zealand politics – 1.1million Aucklanders can vote – has its origins in talks he gave in late 2021-22, which his camp says prompted the people to encourage him to think bigger.

Political strategist Matthew Hooton was an early adviser, research was commissioned and, at the launch in March, was Tim Hurdle, campaign manager for National in the 2020 election.

A self-proclaimed ‘fixer’, Brown became the latest of the main contenders to enter the race, with a simple message that Auckland was broke and needed his skills as a civil engineer and experienced board chairman for the to fix.

Some of his assertions in his launch speech were outright false, such as that light rail was an idea cooked up in Wellington and forced on Auckland, but he stuck to it, repeating it in his victory speech.

Like other misguided claims, most people who heard them heard what they wanted to believe, and Brown’s sticking to the original script was part of what made his disciplined and focused campaign a winner.

“Wayne Brown was hitting all the right touchpoints – it doesn’t get any more complicated than that,” said Mike Hutcheson, a respected advertising veteran who helped lead four winning mayoral campaigns for both predecessors. of Brown, Len Brown and Phil Goff.

Hutcheson acknowledged that Brown presented a “simple winning recipe” for political campaigning – what he called the three Ms; mission, money and machine.

The announcer quoted 1960s American political scientist Dr Philip Converse, who believed less than 10% of voters had any real knowledge of the issues. Brown didn’t need to be correct, right on target.

Brown was open about his campaign targeting homeowners and seniors over 50 because, as all research shows, they are the most likely to vote.

December expense reports will reveal whether he spent the $500,000 of his own money, which he regularly spoke about.

In Hutcheson’s “Three M” test, fix was the mission, the money was obvious, and the machine was paid advertising and a large appearance log claiming over 250 private and public appearances.

Brown’s disciplined and repetitive message has outlasted two ‘centre-right’ rivals, Leo Molloy who pulled the plug after a big early campaign that polls showed was fading, and Viv Beck whose campaign has imploded due to infighting over bills.

He seemed disinterested in questions and media reports about the controversy surrounding part of his tenure as mayor of Far North and chairman of the Auckland District Health Board.

Race for mayor of Auckland Efeso Collins

Efeso Collins’ defeat in the Auckland mayoral race was a crushing one (file photo)
Photo: Supplied / Efeso Collins

Two days before Election Day, Brown’s main remaining rival, Efeso Collins, and a dozen supporters held placards outside the Te Matariki Clendon Library in one of Auckland’s poorest neighborhoods.

The two-term Manukau ward councilor and one-term chairman of Ōtara local council has focused on trying to increase voter turnout in his southern stronghold, which in Ōtara was 22.7% in 2019.

It was a big statement about disconnection in poorer communities, but in terms of trying to swing what the latest poll showed was a 6% deficit behind Brown, it was a drop, if that, in the electoral bucket.

Collins’ defeat was crushing. Len Brown and Phil Goff in four elections from 2010 had won a share of the mayoral vote approaching 50%, Collins could be half that once the numbers are finalized.

The fate of the centre-left’s effort to continue its 12-year hold on the merged Auckland mayor’s office can be partly attributed to how two-term mayor Phil Goff handled his decision to retire.

Mayor Phil Goff said Auckland is experiencing its worst drought on record.

Phil Goff has announced he will retire as mayor in February (file photo)
Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Len Brown in 2010 had a year of campaigning to secure his victory, Goff in 2016 declared his hand with 11 months to go. He announced his retirement in February, leaving a leftist successor just seven months away.

Goff has twice said that the seven months he gave his successor to mount a winning campaign was a lot of time, but no one from previous campaigns agreed.

The late announcement had two potential successors campaigning, Collins and North Shore ward councilor Richard Hills, who eventually dropped the idea to focus on his new role as a father.

Collins had formed his own team, none of whom had worked on the winning efforts of Goff or Len Brown, and there were few signs of early funding on a scale to match Wayne Brown’s paid advertising.

The left-backed candidate had free public transport as his flagship policy, and it seemed to resonate. In a poll by the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance, there was more support for the policy than for Collins himself.

Hutcheson and other mayoral campaign veterans interviewed said Collins failed to overcome the handicap of inferior name recognition, outside of his core constituency.

Commentators thought he had too many messages, and his initial position on tariffs – a formula based on “affordability” – was almost impossible for a layman to grasp.

Collins chose to maintain a positive campaign, focused on her policies and messaging, and avoided attacking Brown in debates over the contentious statements.

Only in recent weeks has Collins challenged Brown’s claim that he could “de-fund” the council’s cultural and economic agency Tātaki Auckland Unlimited.

Forcing it to be self-sufficient would potentially jeopardize the major and popular institutions it runs, such as Auckland Zoo, the art gallery and stadiums. Collins, however, focused on the impact on the screen business.

In assessing the campaigns, however, it is important to add the mood to the change, which has swept through not just the town hall, but also the council, some local councils and even licensing trusts.

This story originally appeared on Stuff.

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