As local elections are set to occur in November in Taiwan, many cities and counties are still looking at who will be nominated for each party. It seems the KMT in Kaohsiung has yet to decide who they will nominate, though a few names have been floated.
Some have proposed current Mayor of Taipei Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) as a potential for the race. It is certainly a possibility, though it seems more likely that Ko will seek higher office, more specifically the presidency. While it is unlikely that Ko will land either job, if he did seek to run for Mayor of Kaohsiung, it is likely the only way that his party, the Taiwan People’s Party (臺灣民眾黨), could maintain its hold over a mayoral seat. Ko is currently the only TPP member to hold such office. While Ko does have a moderately high favorability nation wide according to recent national polling, he would likely lose a head-to-head race with current Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁).
In the aforementioned national polling, Chen came in 4th place right after Ko, with two less satisfaction points (Ko 48, Chen 46) and one less percentage of dissatisfaction (Ko 31, Chen 30), both within the margin of error which was +/- 3.1. However, national polls do not exactly reflect the mood of Kaohsiung. According to ETtoday polling, Chen leads Ko by just under 20 points in the prospective race, Chen with 50.7 percent support and Ko with 31.
Another candidate that has been floating around as a potential to face Chen Chi-mai is Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強). Lo is currently a member of the Taipei City Council. Even though his name has been put forward by numerous media figures, it is highly unlikely that he will run, as he has already announced that he will run for the Mayor of Taipei this year. Fulfilling a promise that if he reached 1 million followers on Facebook he would do so.
One final possible candidate is Kao Chin Su-mei (高金素梅). Kao is a member of the Legislative Yuan, representing the Highland Aborigines electoral district. While Kao is technically an independent, she is firmly in the pan-Blue camp. She also seems to have quite a cozy relationship with China.
Kao has been to China to participate in political activities and has even taken millions of dollars in donations from the Taiwan Affairs Office in China. This money was ostensibly a donation and Kao claimed it would go towards aboriginal flood victims in Taiwan. These sorts of actions are unlikely to be popular with the citizens of Kaohsiung, which doesn’t bode especially well for Kao if she does choose to run for mayor of the southern city.
Kaohsiung has long been a pan-Green stronghold. There is of course the exception of Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), who was the first KMT Mayor of Kaohsiung since Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), who held the office from 1994 to 1998 before being ousted by Frank Hsieh (謝長廷). Han was also a bit of an outlier with his populist brand of politics, though when he failed to produce results he was recalled after less than two years on the job.
With the foul taste of Han’s term in office still in their mouths, it seems unlikely that Kaohsiung voters would choose to go for another pan-Blue politician so soon. Though there are factors that could lead to this, such as a spiraling of the COVID pandemic in the city. Though with numbers stabilizing, even this seems unlikely. Also with residents seeming to be quite satisfied with Chen’s time as mayor, it seems improbable that they would make such a radical shift so quickly.
As with all things political, the race should become more clear as we draw nearer to the elections. However, at the current moment it seems like Chen Chi-mai has a solid chance at a second term.