Rodney MP Mark Mitchell may have failed in his bid for leadership of the National Party, but is delighted with the strong support he received from members of the National caucus and his constituents.
Mr Mitchell says his caucus support reached “double figures” but shortly before votes were cast, he realised it would be tough to reach the 29 votes required to win.
Mr Mitchell pulled out of the contest before voting commenced.
“I felt it was important for the new leader to emerge on an early ballot rather than a later ballot and come out with a strong mandate and a unified caucus,” he says.
Mr Mitchell’s early withdrawal allowed his supporters to switch their votes to another candidate.
Mr Mitchell says he is “very happy” with the choice of Simon Bridges as leader and says the two are closely aligned politically, particularly on conscience issues.
Like Mr Bridges, Mr Mitchell voted against same-sex marriage, supported the raising of the drinking age and opposes a current bill before parliament on euthanasia.
“We both come from families where public service is important and have a strong set of family values,” he says.
“We have selected a great leader and everyone is 110 per cent behind him and pretty excited about the next couple of years.”
Mr Mitchell says he entered the leadership race because he felt he had the personal qualities, drive and passion to be a strong leader of the National Party and gather the support needed for the party to win in the General Election in 2020.
He says he was overwhelmed by the amount of support he got from the Rodney electorate.
“I was flooded with so many messages of support, I’m still trying to respond to all the correspondence. It was very humbling,” he says.