The race to succeed Taita Taveta Governor Granton Samboja has gained momentum as aspirants rush to secure political party membership ahead of the Saturday deadline.
Different candidates are aligning themselves with the perceived leading coalitions of Azimio la Umoja, led by ODM leader Raila Odinga, and Deputy President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza alliance.
The law requires a person seeking an elective seat to be a member of a party by March 26 if they intend to run on that outfit’s ticket in the coming General Election.
If they had not registered by then, they can only vie as independent candidates.
With party primaries set for April 16-21, the aspirants are now party-hopping to choose friendly outfits, largely driven by fears of sabotage.
The fierce contest for the county’s top seat has attracted over 14 aspirants.
As more join the race, Mwatate MP Andrew Mwadime has decamped from ODM to the Communist Party of Kenya (CPK).
The MP was a lifetime member of ODM and has served two terms.
He was to be officially received by party officials in Nairobi on Tuesday as they prepared to hand him the ticket to contest the seat.
“The Azimio coalition has not stated clearly how they will handle the nominations. The lack of clarity has made me look for an alternative,” he said.
He said he feared that his close opponent, Governor Samboja, who is also leaning towards Azimio, will be handed the ticket, to his disadvantage.
“ODM has been sidelining me whenever the party leader visits the county. The officials even appointed the governor as the point man for the Azimio movement in the county. Where does that leave me?” the MP said.
Mr Samboja, who was previously elected on a Wiper party ticket, is yet to declare his party of choice, though there was earlier speculation that he would join ODM.
Another aspirant, Stephen Mwakesi, has announced that he will vie for the seat on a People’s Empowerment Party ticket after defecting from the United Democratic Alliance party.
Mr Mwakesi, previously known to be Dr Ruto’s ally, ditched the party in what he described as curtailing his bid to take over the county leadership.
The battle for a party ticket is also fierce in Wiper, as former senator Dan Mwazo and media consultant Patience Nyange both battle to fly the party’s flag.
Ms Nyange has threatened to jump to a safer outfit after Wiper officials indicated they would support Mr Mwazo, igniting rivalry between the two contestants.
On the other hand, UDA is fighting to weaken the dominance of ODM in the region by ensuring that former Governor John Mruttu wins the election.
Mr Mruttu earned a direct ticket from UDA and wants to fly Kenya Kwanza’s flag.
Kenya Kwanza has brought together two other contestants – Prof Agnes Mwang’ombe (ANC) and advocate Onesmus Mwinzi (Ford Kenya).
ODM seems to have lost its glory as the influence of the apparent flag-bearer Thomas Mwakwida seems to be minimal.
The party has failed to attract many aspirants for elective positions for this election, suggesting that its support in the county is waning.
Other aspirants eyeing the governor’s seat are community development expert Rachel Mwakazi (Jubilee), Elijah Mwandoe (PAA), Faustine Mghendi (The Service Party), George Mwandembo (Democratic Action Party of Kenya).
Two others – Francis Mwaita and Godino Mwasaru – will vie as independent candidates.
The county has nearly 180,000 registered voters.