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Hsieh Li-kung accepts KMT bid in Keelung Mayor race
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-07-23 12:22 PM
Hsieh Li-kung, the former head of the National Immigration Agency who is now serving as a senior adviser to the National Security Council, has agreed to run as the KMT candidate in the race for mayor of Keelung City in the year-end elections in late November.

Hsieh’s acceptance of the challenge clears up the situation for the KMT after it revoked the candidacy of former Keelung City Council Speaker Huang Jing-tai on July 9 after he was implicated in an investigation of influence peddling in a construction project in the city. Huang has complicated the KMT’s strategy by refusing to withdraw as a candidate, and he could draw votes away from Hsieh in the polling. The situation brings up painful memories of 1997 for the KMT when a split cost them the election.

Lin Yu-chang, the DPP candidate in the race, declined to comment on the nomination of Hsieh, saying that it was a matter for the KMT to resolve. He said that he remains "cautiously optimistic” about his chances in the election, adding that he will be careful and work step by step to achieve victory in his campaign.

The decision to ‘parachute in ‘ Hsieh as a candidate brought a reaction from Sun Jun-bin of the KMT’s Organization Development Committee, who warned that if the DPP is able to garner more votes in the election than Huang and Hsieh combined, Keelung could go the way of Kaohsiung and wind up firmly in the Green camp. Sun urged party officials to take quick action to avoid losing the city to the DPP.

Han Liang-chi, a Keelung city councilor who ran in the primary election for mayor, criticized the KMT for a lack of organization, saying that “the opinions of the party are not those of the people." Another KMT city councilor, Yang Shi-cheng, insists that he will stay on as a candidate and faulted the party’s central organization for being out of touch with the local situation.

In the 1997 Keelung mayoral race, the DPP candidate Li Chin-yung received 73,000 votes to defeat Liu Wen-hsiung as Hsu Tsai-li siphoned off 33,000 votes and helped throw the election to the Greens. With Huang Jing-tai capable of easily drawing 20,000 to 30,000 votes in a campaign, party officials are uneasy that lightning may strike again as it did in 1997. Huang enjoys a certain amount of grass-roots strength and his presence in the campaign represents a significant challenge for Hsieh, who compared his task to that of “a grandmother giving birth.”

Hsieh may wind up struggling to overcome an image as an outsider in the campaign despite the fact that he spent more than 20 years in the city while studying at nearby Taiwan National Ocean University and working in the Keelung branch of the Investigation Bureau.

In the previous election for Keelung mayor in 2009, DPP candidate Lin Yu-chang polled slightly more than 65,000 votes, falling far behind the KMT’s Chang Tong-rong at 86,000 votes. This year the campaign dynamics for the KMT may not be so simple.

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