Steph Lewis successful Labour candidate for Whanganui.
Whanganui has been restored to Labour rule after 15 years under National.
Labour’s Steph Lewis flipped the seat red in Saturday’s election, winning an almost 7000-vote majority over National incumbent Harete Hipango, as a red tide spread through the provinces.
Lewis had earned 19,459 votes to the 12,638 of Hipango, a huge turnaround from 2017 when Hipango won by 1700 votes. This time Labour won 51.3 per cent of the party vote and National 26.8 per cent.
Whanganui was previously Labour’s until Chester Borrows held the seat for National from 2005 to 2017.
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Lewis, who was swamped with supporters at the party’s celebrations at Whanganui’s The Grand Hotel, was pleased to have won the seat in her second attempt.
“When I first put my hand up for the nomination in early 2017 I had so many people saying ‘Steph what are you doing it’s a safe National seat now, we’ve lost that one’.
“But it shows you what hard work can achieve.”
Labour’s Steph Lewis gives a victory speech after winning the Whanganui seat.
She said she had been out in the community engaging with people and had chipped away.
Since her last attempt Labour had a real crack at swaying Whanganui voters, holding its conference in the city last year and big guns prime minister Jacinda Ardern and finance minister Grant Robertson have visited.
“It’s a big turn around from three years ago and it hasn’t sunk in yet to be quite honest,” Lewis said. “The whole campaign from start to finish has been phenomenal.
“Every time my team and I have been out in the community we found multiple people the whole way through who have said ‘I voted National last time, but you’ve got two ticks from me’.
“I didn’t dare to dream that we would get the result that we’ve got [on Saturday night].”
She said the win had been a long time coming because historically Whanganui was a Labour seat, having been a red seat for 60 of the past 80 years.
“I think it’s probably more of a bellwether seat perhaps, but we knew that there were a lot of Labour people out there, we just had to get them out to vote and give them something to hope for.”
Lewis said Labour had supported the regions for the past three years and it showed in Saturday’s result.
National MP Harete Hipango conceded the Whanganui seat t supporters at the Whanganui Club, concedes the o Labour.
National supporters were more reserved next door at the Whanganui Club, where Hipango arrived about 10pm after travelling from southern Taranaki.
Hipango was preparing to walk away from Parliament based on Saturday’s results and said she would take some time for herself.
She said she was concerned about the direction New Zealand was going in under Labour.
“I’m not sad for me, I’m actually sad for the nation because I can predict where things are going.”
Hipango put Labour’s huge win down to the “celebrity popularism” of Ardern.
The Green Party’s Alan Clay was third with 1118 votes, and New Conservative’s Jonathan Marshall was fourth with 682.
Charlotte Weber of Advance NZ won 620 votes, independent Hillary Kieft 302 and Heather Smith of Social Credit 168.
The Whanganui electorate takes in the river city Whanganui and stretches west into southern Taranaki, including smaller towns Hāwera, Stratford and Ōpunake.