In a lifetime of poor decisions, opting to stay on in NZ to help out on Nick Leggett's mayoral campaign is a startling aberration.
I knew Nick from when he volunteered on my doomed 1995 campaign for the Porirua City Council. He was 16. I was 25. To say he went ahead in leaps and bounds would be a gargantuan understatement.
Even during my worst years of drinking and depression, Nick was a constant in my life. The best kind of friend. Loyal, emphathic, miraculously patient.
Through it all, we never stopped talking politics, our common obsession. U.S., U.K., Uganda, you name it. I hope the conversation never stops. Nick is smart, intuitive, principled. A natural retail politician who has, over the years, mastered his brief like a true policy wonk. I saw him during the campaign at a consulting firm, and I could hardly believe how complete a politician he has become. He was always a charming, likable guy with a superhuman knack for remembering names and faces. He was always capable of giving a great speech. But what I hadn't noticed until that moment was the extent to which he had added an astute policy brain to the arsenal. I told him, and he brushed it off, saying I must have low standards.
I am so proud of how Nick has conducted himself during this campaign. And Emily, his wife, as they both juggled the demands of a gorgeous newborn son, Tāne. I've never known a candidate in such a Zen-like state; so utterly unruffled.
After Andrew Little publicly attacked him for being a "right-winger", Nick was taken aback for a second but soon laughed it off. As Young Labour trolls launched one nasty, baseless attack after another on Twitter or Reddit or wherever basement-dwelling fanatics like to spend their time, Nick either didn't notice or simply shrugged. If I ever prepared to respond, he would gently tell me not to bother and go deliver some leaflets. (The dog-whistle attacks on Porirua by so-called lefties, including senior Wellington-based MPs, took even more discipline to ignore, but Nick somehow managed).
They never once got into his head, or caused him to deviate from the campaign he wanted to run. One about making Wellington City Council as good as the community it represents.
Whatever happens tonight, my mate Nick Leggett and all of those who support him can hold our heads high in the knowledge that we ran a good and decent campaign.
I've always been proud to know Nick, from the time he lobbed up to my house in Camborne to help me out in 1995. But I've never been prouder to count him a friend than I am today.