Four years ago, former foreign minister Jason Hu (胡志強) decided to make the switch to local politics, and successfully helped the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) wrest control of Taichung City from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the mayoral election.
Hu has enjoyed high support rates during his time as Taichung mayor and it seems a formality that he will win a second term in Saturday's election, as different polls have placed him ahead of both the DPP's Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) and the People First Party's Shen Chi-hwei (沈智慧).
Just when the race was largely being ignored as the electoral focus fell on more unpredictable battles around the country, a series of issues over which the DPP attacked Hu recently, however, have turned attention back onto this now intense battle.
First, Lin attacked Hu for adding a 10-year period of study in the UK toward his public sector service in his pension application, and demanded that he return the additional pension payouts he received as a result of including the 10 years.
In addition to the pension issue, Hu's health came under scrutiny after President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) referred to the mild stroke the mayor suffered previously.
"Jason Hu worked so hard that he had a stroke, making Taichung City residents worry about his health, not knowing when he might `keel over again,'" Chen said during a recent campaign event for Lin in the city.
On Tuesday DPP Legislator Peter Lin (林進興) even published Hu's medical records, which he claimed to have obtained from Taichung's Veteran's General Hospital. The KMT legislative caucus yesterday accused Lin of violating the Law on Licensed Doctors (醫師法) by revealing a patient's confidential records, and demanded his doctor's license be revoked.
Commenting on the accusations, KMT Spokeswoman Cheng Li-wen (鄭麗文) denounced the DPP for its "vicious personal attacks" on Hu's health.
"We condemn the DPP for making Hu's physical condition an issue ? Mayor Hu is leading in all the polls, so this is just a desperate DPP tactic that will not fool the voters," she said.
Hu merely brushed it off as "electioneering," and said he is still confident about his chances of winning the poll.
According to the latest poll conducted on Nov. 15 by the Liberty Times, sister newspaper of the Taipei Times, Hu continues to lead the race with 36.8 percent support, while Lin has 21.7 percent and Sheng brings up the rear with just 2.73 percent.
Although the pan-blue split doesn't seem to have affected Hu's ratings, and he leads Lin by 15 percent, about 38 percent of respondents declined to state their preference in the poll -- a silent group of voters that will likely be decisive.
Lin shrugged off the poll results, and said he believed many pan-green supporters or swing voters will come out and cast their votes for him on election day.
"The pension issue, Hu's health concerns, and the public order problem that is still threatening Taichung are all great concerns for residents," he said. Lin blamed the deterioration of public order in the city, which has the highest crime rate in the country, on Hu's ineptness as mayor.
With Hu continuing to lead despite the DPP's attacks, this battle will clearly not be an easy task for Lin. As the former Government Information Office (GIO) head, Lin resigned from his post earlier this year in order to enter the race. However, critics of Lin have accused him of being a carpetbagger.