The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chose former premier Simon Chang (張善政) as its candidate for Taoyuan mayor at a closed-door meeting yesterday.
Speaking after the party’s Central Standing Committee meeting, KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) said the decision was made based on “who can bring change to the city” rather than “who was interested in running.”
Chu was likely referring to former Taipei city councilor Lo Chih-chiang of the KMT (羅智強), who last week resigned his post to seek the party’s nomination for Taoyuan mayor. KMT Secretary-General Justin Huang (黃健庭) at the time called Lo’s decision “regrettable.”
Lo yesterday in a social media post wrote that he was “shocked” and “stunned” by news of Chang’s nomination, adding that he mostly felt sorry for his supporters, rather than himself.
The news also came as a surprise to KMT legislators Lu Yu-ling (呂玉玲) and Lu Ming-che (魯明哲).
Lu Yu-ling in a statement described the nomination process as an “unfathomable and unacceptable ambush” that had damaged the reputation of the KMT.
She said the decision would undermine local support for the party and prove detrimental to its chances of winning November’s election.
Lu Ming-che said he would campaign for Chang, because he had the credentials to serve as a competent mayor.
Chu thanked all of the candidates who had sought the party’s nomination and said he hopes they will now rally around Chang, whose background in engineering, high-tech industry and government made him “capable of turning Taoyuan into an Asian Silicon Valley.”
Before entering politics in 2012, Chang obtained a doctoral degree in civil and environmental engineering from Cornell University. He worked for several tech companies, most notably serving as director of Google’s hardware operations in Asia.
After joining then-president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) government as a minister without portfolio, Chang went on to serve as minister of science and technology, vice premier and then briefly premier before the KMT lost power in May 2016.
Chang was also former Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu’s (韓國瑜) running mate in the 2020 presidential election.
Speaking to reporters following his nomination, Chang said that “from this moment on, my fellow Taoyuan residents and I are a community of shared destiny on the same boat.”
With a population of 2.27 million people, Taoyuan is Taiwan’s fifth-most populous municipality and is home to many industrial parks and high-tech companies.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has been governing the city since 2014, when what was then Taoyuan County was upgraded to a special municipality.
Taoyuan had been considered a KMT stronghold beginning in 2001, when Chu won the local election.
Chu was replaced by John Wu (吳志揚) in 2009, who served for five years before losing to the DPP’s Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦) in 2014.
The DPP is yet to announce a candidate, with Cheng, re-elected by a comfortable margin in 2018, barred from running for a third term.
Hualien County Commissioner Hsu Chen-wei (徐榛蔚) and Taitung County Commissioner Yao Ching-ling (饒慶鈴) have secured the KMT’s nomination to run for re-election in their respective constituencies.
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