John Palino is expected to launch his second attempt at the Auckland mayoralty today.
He has some major association problems to overcome.
He gave an interview to Fairfax and not surprisingly wants to put the debacle that followed his election loss in 2013 behind him.
John Palino: why it’s time to forget about Len Brown’s sex scandal
But let’s rewind to that kaBOOM – the detonation that appeared to destroy Palino, American-born restaurateur, TV personality and entrepreneur who’d picked up a handy 109,000 votes against Brown’s 164,000.
Palino looked a villain because it seemed kinda obvious he must have played a part: Wewege was his guy; Brown’s downfall could benefit him. More damningly, Chuang said just after the election, and just before she blabbed to Cook, she met Palino on a Mission Bay carpark and the pair talked for 90 minutes about the affair and how it might still be used to force Brown to step down. She said Palino offered her a job on his team. It sounded really bad.
Except, says Palino, it wasn’t true and he wants to set the record straight.
“I had nothing to do with it. I didn’t have sex with someone. I’m an innocent bystander who said I’ve got nothing to do with it. I’m sick and tired of the lies that I’m hearing.”
Except that even if the record is set straight and Palino was totally uninvolved in the Len Brown affair and the attempt to depose Brown just after he’d won an election he has some awkward things to try and explain.
He has plans to fix Auckland’s congestion, housing affordability, city intensification, unemployment, corruption – the works. He’s not a politician but that’s a good thing, and he knows about leadership: “I believe in hiring the right people for the job. The mayor is about managing those people.”
But his management of people he hired for his last campaign, Wewege and Chuang, raise serious questions about his ability to hire the right people for the job. Wegege was in a relationship with Chuang who had been in a relationship with Palino’s opponent.
And Wewege seems to have to encouraged Chuang to go public via Whale Oil to try and overturn a democratic result.
Won’t he get bogged down answering questions about Wewege? About Mission Bay and Chuang? About the culture within his last campaign? Three years ago commentators said his reputation was shot, so what’s changed? Or to put it another way: John Palino, are you fricken serious?
What has changed?
His campaign manager is changing. Last time it was John Slater. This time Palino has taken on
In light of that, here’s an interesting fact: Palino’s new campaign manager is Simon Lusk. (It’s Lusk, Palino presumes, who got Cameron Slater to approach Fairfax about this interview.)
Lusk’s critics see him as unapologetic avatar of the dirtiest of politics. His own website boasts of a track record working “behind the scenes” to “remove” MPs and councillors who have “caused problems”. Is Lusk the person Palino needs while still shrugging off his alleged connection to a famous smear campaign?
“I need good people and he’s good at what he does,” says Palino. “But I don’t want any dirty politics. It’s not me.
If someone wanted to separate themselves from dirty politics I’d have thought that some of the last people you would choose to associate with would be Lusk and Cameron Slater.
“I need to make sure my team doesn’t do things like that. It’s up to me.”
Who has ever succeeded in making sure Slater didn’t play dirty. He brags about how dirty he is, how dirty politics is and should be, and how no one controls what he does.
Palino may genuinely want clean but if so it’s extremely hard to fathom why he would choose some of the dirtiest political operators in New Zealand without being aware of the difficulty that would create for his campaign.
If Palino is intelligent he must know this. Has he been sucked in by Lusk and Slater? Or is his campaign some sort of very deliberate, cunning plan.
If it involves Slater’s cunning then Auckland could be in for a train wreck mayoralty campaign. How many people have been let down by him?
Update: And it’s been claimed that Carrick Graham is managing Palino’s launch today.