(Reuters) – New Zealand holds a general election on Oct. 17, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s centre-left Labour Party holding a wide lead over the centre-right main opposition National Party.

Below are the main issues in the election.

Ardern has called this a “COVID election” and focussed her campaign on her government’s “go hard, go early” response to the outbreak, which has helped boost her popularity and make her an international celebrity.

New Zealand has reported 25 deaths from COVID-19 and around 1,500 infections after Ardern’s swift response, far less than in other developed countries. That’s about 0.05 death per 10,000 people, compared to the United States at 6.49 or India at 0.78, according to Reuters calculations.

New Zealand placed the most significant restrictions on public movements in modern history in the initial phase of the coronavirus outbreak by closing its borders, imposing self-isolation and shutting down most of its economy to contain the spread of the virus.

Labour says it would continue tight controls and quarantines and would strengthen the contact-tracing system.

National says it would establish a border protection agency within 100 days of forming a government to prevent future outbreaks. It blames Labour’s border rules for allowing a recent flare-up in the country’s largest city, Auckland.

Ardern has said climate change is “my generation’s nuclear-free moment”. Labour vows to phase out single-use plastics and replace coal-fired boilers with electric alternatives, and says it would end the use of carbon by public buses by 2035.

It aims to create 11,000 jobs in regional New Zealand to restore the environment, including cleaning up waterways to allow safe swimming.

Ardern says she would accelerate New Zealand’s target of 100% renewable electricity generation by five years to 2030, responding to criticism from opposition leader Judith “Crusher” Collins.

Collins, leader of the

In their quest for the Senate majority, Democrats are pushing the battleground map as far north as it will go.



Dan Sullivan wearing a suit and tie: Sen. Dan Sullivan’s campaign has not yet released his third-quarter fundraising totals but has said they expect to be outraised and outspent by a staggering, five-to-one margin.


© Al Drago/Pool via AP
Sen. Dan Sullivan’s campaign has not yet released his third-quarter fundraising totals but has said they expect to be outraised and outspent by a staggering, five-to-one margin.

New money from outside groups and small dollar donors are flooding into Alaska, where independent Al Gross, who is backed by state and national Democrats, is aiming to unseat first-term GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan. The race has been on the edges of the Senate map for months, potentially competitive but receiving far less attention than some more expensive and geographically closer contests.

But now a new influx of outside spending and grassroots dollars into Gross’ campaign have given Democrats a major financial edge in the state in the final four weeks. A new super PAC formed Monday is dropping $4 million into the race, the largest outside investment so far and a signal of optimism among party leaders. And Gross announced that his campaign raised $9 million over the past three months, a staggering sum that would have been enough to fund an entire campaign.

“It’s a money bomb,” said Jim Lottsfeldt, a veteran operative in the state.

Alaska offers Democrats another path to cobbling together the three seats they need to flip control of the Senate if Joe Biden wins the presidential race. And along with races in Kansas, Montana and South Carolina, the Alaska foray represents a major offensive into traditionally red states that are more competitive because of President Donald Trump’s sinking poll numbers.

The new super PAC, North Star, formed earlier this week, according to its Federal Election Commission filing, and went up on air Thursday with its first ad, which hits Sullivan

“It’s a money bomb,” said Jim Lottsfeldt, a veteran operative in the state.

Alaska offers Democrats another path to cobbling together the three seats they need to flip control of the Senate if Joe Biden wins the presidential race. And along with races in Kansas, Montana and South Carolina, the Alaska foray represents a major offensive into traditionally red states that are more competitive because of President Donald Trump’s sinking poll numbers.

The new super PAC, North Star, formed earlier this week, according to its Federal Election Commission filing, and went up on air Thursday with its first ad, which hits Sullivan on health care. The amount made it the largest spender on television in the race, though other outside groups have been there earlier.

“I think people were initially skeptical. It’s why we were kind of alone out there in investing in Alaska early on,” said Shaughnessy Naughton, president of 314 Action, a Democratic group that backs candidates with science backgrounds and has spent $2 million to boost Gross, an orthopedic surgeon. “But I think people are seeing it as a real race, and that’s why we are seeing other groups start to come in.”

North Star has apparent ties to national Democrats. Its media buyer, Waterfront Strategies, is used by a handful of major Democratic groups, including Senate Majority PAC, which is run by allies of Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. The super PAC maintains its account with Amalgamated Bank, according to its FEC filing, which is a Washington-based bank used by a wide range of Democratic organizations.

A spokesperson for Senate Majority PAC declined to comment on the group. Emails sent to a Gmail address listed on North Star’s FEC filing did not receive a response. The filing also lists a website that has no contact