The bickering has started, campaign signs are being torn down and some political hopefuls are making “below the belt” comments about each other.
The in-fighting between some of New Plymouth’s by-election candidates has been creating a stir on social media, with one calling another “excrement” and another taking pot-shots at a family member of a rival.
The biffo started when city-ward by-election candidate Reuben Doyle, who is campaigning on getting fluoride back into the water supply, created a chart which included photos of all by-election candidates.
The chart set out what Doyle believed was each candidate’s view on fluoride and he posted it on his Facebook page, asking his 3000 followers to share it.
However, fellow candidate Morris West asked Doyle multiple times to take down the post, saying Doyle had assumed his stance on the issue and had used his photo without permission.
Another candidate, Chris Wilkes, also raised concerns about the post.
Doyle refused to remove it, and said it was OK for him to use candidate photos in his campaigning because it was all “part and parcel of electioneering”.
The situation escalated and West later called Doyle a “piece of excrement”. Doyle said he could see where a member of West’s family got their temper from.
West has since removed Doyle from his Facebook friend list.
“I asked him nicely, twice, to remove a post where he makes an assumption about my views, and he wouldn’t do it. I wasn’t so nice after that, but bringing my family into it is below the belt.”
West complained to the council electoral officer about Doyle’s behaviour but said he was told because it happened on social media, nothing could be done about it.
Doyle said he believed the majority of candidates were anti-fluoride, and a number of them were frustrated at the traction his pro fluoride stance was gathering.
“I question why Wilkes and West want it [the chart] taken down?
“If I got it wrong and they are actually pro-fluoride, I am more than happy to apologise and correct it,” Doyle said.
“I am running a political campaign, do you think the Labour party calls up the National party saying: ‘I don’t like your billboards, can you take them down’?.”
Doyle said the claim he was harassing candidates about fluoride was ridiculous.
“I would suggest I am the one who is being harassed, I have had signs torn down, my vehicle vandalised and been assaulted with a weapon since I started this campaign.”
He said the assault happened when a can of beer was hurled at his face when he was at an event.
Doyle said despite this he always allowed people or candidates to comment on his campaign page and he was disappointed the Taranaki Daily News had decided to run a story about the in-fighting on social media.
“I think the public are far more interested in real issues.”