Close relatives are among several aspirants set to battle it out for the Taita Taveta woman representative seat in the August 8 General Election.
Lawyer Janet Mwawasi-Oben (Jubilee) will square it out with her aunt Priscilla Mwangeka – a former Voi mayor, who will contest under the Wiper party ticket.
Others who have declared interest are nominated ward representatives Hope Mwakio and Rosina Kisochi, businesswoman Lydia Haika as well as Domestic Tourist Association national chairperson Anastasia Wakesho.
Five of the aspirants are contesting the seat for the first time, except Ms Mwangeka who lost to incumbent Joyce Lay in 2013.
Ms Lay’s decision not to defend her seat and instead vie for the Senate post has in the meantime thrown the race wide open.
Ms Mwakio will be battling it out with Ms Wakesho and Ms Kisochi to be ODM’s candidate.
However, political observers say Ms Mwakio has an edge in the race, owing to her close ties with the ODM party’s top leadership, a factor other aspirants fear may play to her advantage.
Ms Haika and Ms Oben, on the other hand, will fight it out for the Jubilee ticket.
There are already concerns that fierce competition between the Opposition-affiliated parties will give Jubilee an advantage in a region traditionally considered to be an Opposition stronghold.
Wiper’s declaration that it will field candidates in all elective posts is widely expected to divide the National Super Alliance votes in the region and give Jubilee a head start.
To achieve this goal, Jubilee is aggressively campaigning on a development platform.
This time round, the voters say they will scrutinise each candidate based on their manifesto. This is unlike the past where candidates used to ride on political party popularity to get to leadership positions.
“We want a leader who will champion our rights as women and residents of this county at large. We will not be carried away by the political parties as was the case in the past,” says Coast Sauti ya Wanawake chairperson Dorcas Gibran.
This decision is expected to send aspirants back to the drawing board to draft messages that will resonate with people’s needs.
“We will only vote for a leader who will represent us well in Parliament,” she adds.
The incoming leaders, residents say, will have their work cut out if they are to match the progress made by Ms Lay who has, for instance, aggressively championed women rights in Parliament.
Meanwhile, the aspirants have escalated the hunt for votes to social media where they are wooing voters through Facebook and WhatsApp groups.
However, unlike all other elective posts, the local culture and traditions are also expected to weigh in heavily particularly on the mode of dressing.
The women aspirants are expected to dress in a more ‘conservative’ way while addressing the elderly voters, failure to which they might be seen as disrespectful.
“We cannot elect a woman candidate whose dressing raises eyebrows. She has to dress appropriately because our culture demands so,” said a Voi resident Beatrice Mwachanya.
In addition, the aspirants are also to be subjected to public scrutiny over their family lives and marital status. Stable families and marriages are also considered a key factor for women aspirants in the region.
But, some residents feel these are outdated practices, which should not be used to judge the aspirants.
“We cannot elect leaders based on their marital status and social engagements. All we need are leaders who are able to deliver,” Ms Gibran said.
The contest is also viewed as a battle between new blood and veterans.
Ms Mwakio and Ms Mwangeka are considered veteran politicians, having served in various political capacities in the region.
Ms Mwangeka served as Voi mayor for four years and another four years as deputy mayor from 2003-2012.
During her tenure, she was the chairperson for gender in the Association of Local Government Authorities of Kenya and also a member of East Africa Local Governments Association.
On the other hand, Ms Mwakio also served as a mayor from 2009 to 2011.
Her engagement in ODM activities saw her elected as national organising secretary for the party’s women league.
Ms Wakesho is known for organising tourism activities in the Coast region having worked in the tourism industry for 33 years.
Ms Kisochi had been working with the disabled in Taveta before she was nominated to represent them in the assembly.