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Running mate headache in race for Kisumu governorship

Dr Hezron MacObewa, one of the Kisumu County Gubenatorial aspirants. Aspirants for the Kisumu gubernatorial race are keeping their potential running mates secret. (PHOTO: COURTESY)

Aspirants for the Kisumu gubernatorial race are keeping their potential running mates secret.

So far, Kisumu businessman Hezron Mac’Obewa, Senator Anyang’ Nyong’o and Deputy Governor Ruth Odinga have expressed interest in unseating Governor Jack Ranguma.

But the four are playing their potential running mates close to their chests. Asked who his number two will be in a morning radio show, Mac’Obewa dismissed the question, saying he was building his brand first. “It is only after the nominations that we can talk of a running mate,” he said.

But as was in the 2013 polls, the choice of a running mate will be key to winning the ODM ticket and the actual election.

Sources close to Ranguma told The Standard on Sunday that the governor may not name his running mate until the official campaign period is declared. Doing so, the sources said, would not be fair to Ruth who will hold office as deputy governor until the August 2017 polls.

“We are aware that Ruth has declared interest in the top seat. But that does not mean that she has left her office,” said Denis Onyango, the Governor’s Director of Communications.

Onyango said as long as Ruth is still in office, she is tentatively the governor’s running mate.

Ruth has herself played down the issue, saying she is looking for someone she can work with.

Strategic move

“A running mate should be somebody a governor can work with, not anybody imposed on them for political reasons. While I will not say for now who will be my running mate, the important thing is for the people to elect somebody they can work with,” she said.

Senator Nyong’o has also steered clear of the question of who should be his running mate, preferring instead to sell his candidature.

But why are the top aspirants not willing to name their running mates soon? Of the four contenders, Ranguma and Mac’Obewa come from the populous Kano clan which occupies Nyakach, Muhoroni and Nyando constituencies. This therefore means that the two cannot pick their running mates from these constituencies.

Ranguma and Mac’Obewa are likely casting their nets on the populous Kisumu Central constituency, which is largely populated by smaller communities and has a projected 90,000 voters. Picking a running mate from this constituency would be a strategic move for them.

Earlier this month, 70 elders drawn from Kano, Nyakach and Kisumo backed Ranguma’s re-election bid but asked him to pick university lecturer Billy Kariaga as his running mate.

But the privilege of naming a running mate may be taken away from the eventual nominations winner as the ODM party has in the past said it has to have a say.

“After the nominations, we may have to look at the strength of the winner and see what kind of a running mate he or she requires. It is something we are still looking at as we approach the elections,” said Secretary general Agnes Zani.

A source at Orange House also told The Standard on Sunday that the party is taking precautions not to allow fall outs from the naming of governor running mates. “The party may be forced to intervene to prevent last minute fall-outs and voter apathy by carefully choosing a running mate for the purpose of a political, regional, gender and clan balance,” said the official who requested anonymity.

Chaotic primaries

In 2013, Ranguma was prevailed upon by the party to take Ruth following chaotic primaries that left each side claiming victory.

A former Member of the ODM National Elections Board and former Assistant Minister Peter Odoyo was however categorical that it was the party that will choose the running mates.

“What I know is that the running mates are chosen after the nominations and its the party that will decide who is chosen,” Odoyo told The Standard on Sunday.