The Kakamega senatorial race will be one of filling the undoubtedly large shoes of the fiery Dr Boni Khalwale who stirred debate in the House for five years.
Dr Khalwale, friends and foe will agree, left an indelible mark in the House and his exit from the Senate politics in favour of the lucrative governor’s seat leaves the race wide open.
However, analysts and residents said Dr Khalwale’s shadow will be far from gone when the over 620,000 Kakamega voters go to the polls in August.
The race, they said, will be narrowed down to who can best match the trained gynaecologist’s anti-corruption stance and his fervent calls for accountability.
Trade unionist Seth Panyako, engineer Justus Wabuyabo and Dr Kenneth Kochwa will battle it out for the ODM ticket.
On the other hand, Cleophas Malala, an MCA, will square it out with former director of Lake Basin Development Authority Alex Mukabwa for the Amani National Congress flag.
At the same time, Mr Stanley Livondo has declared interest in the seat on a Jubilee ticket in what the ruling team hopes will help its inroads in the vote-rich county.
“Senator Khalwale has performed well and is one of the best in Kenya. I want to go to the Senate to push on with the good work with my flagship project of a community health strategy,” said Dr Kochwa, the head of the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency covering 13 counties in western Kenya.
But Mr Panyako, the Kenya National Union of Nurses secretary-general, disagrees.
“The whole Senate has failed. And that only means that my senator has also failed. The House spent a lot of its time fighting governors, ward administrators when they should have been pushing for more funds to the devolved units,” said Mr Panyako of his bid to “right the wrongs” in the House.
He said he will table Bills to guarantee compensation for terror attack victims, to help sugarcane farmers take charge of the industry and for the return of the outgrowers’ association- the heartbeat of the sugar-growing zone.
Mr Wabuyabo presents himself as fresh blood.
“I am the strongest ODM candidate and I am hoping to clinch the ticket and win against my rivals,” he said.
The three ODM politicians will battle it out with the Musalia Mudavadi-led ANC whose recent installation as the Luhya spokesperson makes him a formidable force in the race for the county’s next senator.
But the sitting governor Wycliffe Oparanya is the ODM deputy party leader and his backing would go a long way in getting one elected to the House.
Maendeleo Democratic Party has fronted political analyst Martin Andati, who believes in the proverbial mustard seed that will grow and dwarf the other trees in the Kakamega Senate election forest.
Aged 31, with a Bachelor’s degree in Information System Technology, Mr Malala said he wanted to go for the Senate to “get a bigger platform to articulate the issues of the county”.
“I believe I have played my oversight role as ward representative effectively and the time has come for me to enter the national political arena to fight for the interest of the county,” said Mr Malala.
He said as a youthful leader, he stood a good chance of engaging with the young people and fighting for their interests.
And like Mr Panyako, Mr Malala argued that Dr Khalwale had failed to perform his legislative role effectively as well as failure to address issues of revenue allocation in the county while in the Senate.
“Dr Khalwale has been in the business of making laws for quite some time but he has stood because of his confrontational political style which at time sends the wrong signals about his performance,” Mr Malala said, adding that he will rectify it.
And while the race for the top seat is open, Dr Khalwale believes he has set the bar high enough.
“I had a pact with the people to ensure allocation of revenue to counties, brisk oversight and to deal with corruption head on. I go back to them knowing I have done the job they gave me,” said the senator.
And now that he is going for the governorship, Dr Khalwale warned that the House should not be looked at as a “lesser job”.
And with a realignment around the Nasa, the race will be a do-or-die at the nominations stage.
Mr Livondo, the Jubilee point man who had accompanied President Uhuru Kenyatta in his tour of the region, stirred the ruling party, saying the time was ripe for the region to enjoy the fruits of being in government.
The 50-year-old, who shot to the limelight when he splashed money in a crowded field in the Lang’ata parliamentary race against Opposition leader Raila Odinga, argued that he was capable of taking over from Dr Khalwale.
“We elected Khalwale as the senator but he chose to abscond the seat and admire that of the governor. I have therefore offered myself to be elected fully to represent the people of Kakamega,” Mr Livondo said.