"Vote Little", the red billboards around New Plymouth read, inviting the predictable graffiti. "Dick" someone has tagged on the bottom.
Welcome to the campaign of Labour's New Plymouth candidate, Andrew Little, back in his childhood town to try to wrest the seat back for his party after National's Jonathan Young took it from Harry Duynhoven with a slim 105-vote majority.
When the Herald first caught up with him, he was at a candidates' meeting with the Taranaki Young Professionals, about 40 people in their 30s and 40s.
At that meeting, Mr Young diligently stuck to his party line while Mr Little largely avoided his party line.
He did not mention Labour leader Phil Goff or most of his party's main policy planks. Instead, he talked about the port, oil, gas and dairy farming. He promised to push for roading realignments north of the city and to "shake every tree and push every button that needs to be shaken or pushed to get the funding for it". He proposed ramming a tunnel through Mt Messenger.
Winning an electorate seat is pivotal to Andrew Little's future ambitions in the Labour Party. But we don't believe that New Plymouth is going to be a good fit for him. Jonathan Young was a late addition to National's stable of candidates in 2008, but surprised many by upsetting long-serving Labour MP Harry Duynhoven by a mere 105 votes.
But the story told by the party votes cast in New Plymouth in 2008 is a very different one. Labour received 10,901, but were totally trounced by National who received 17,512; more than 50% of the party votes cast. It was only Harry Duynhoven's personal following that enabled him to get close to Young. That's why it's interesting to see Little all but campaigning as an independant.
Andrew Little is an outsider, a fact which he himself acknowledges; read on:
Mr Little is aware of the deep vein of conservatism in the electorate - and that the hip-pocket issues of this audience are different from those he would find in union ranks.
He is also aware that he is a carpet bagger - he lives with his wife and 10-year-old son in Wellington and is bunking with his mother for the campaign. He has promised to move to the electorate if he wins, but the locals have made it clear he needs to establish his credentials, hence the emphasis on local issues.
At the candidates' meeting, he is asked if he will still move there if he does not win the seat but gets in on the list. He answers no. It is a question that has come up before and he's managed to come up with a cunning excuse - that it will save the taxpayers' money if they don't have to pay his Wellington accommodation and commuting costs.
And whilst Little suggests that the good folk of New Plymouth vote tactically, he seems unaware that tactical voting could well be his Achilles heel:
Mr Little has never bothered to hide his leadership ambitions. New Plymouth is the start of his work to get there. He doesn't need the seat because he is high on Labour's list, but there's a certain moral heft in getting into Parliament on the votes of the people, rather than the party.
He does not think National's popularity will benefit Mr Young. "New Plymouth is an electorate that is used to splitting their vote. They like a bit of both."
You see, Andrew Little is highly likely to get elected from Labour's list whatever happens. But if voters elect Jonathan Young to continue as the MP for New Plymouth, they'll end up with two MP's with New Plymouth's interests at heart, although it will be interesting to see if Andrew Little is as enthusiastic about the Mt Messenger tunnel once he has more significant things to focus on; such as rolling the leader he barely acknowledges.