Nyeri MP Esther Murugi is bracing herself for a tough battle against five aspirants keen to unseat her.
Ms Murugi, who is eyeing a third term in the national assembly, is described by many as a no-nonsense woman who has gone against the odds to clinch the seat twice in a relatively patriarchal society.
She also made history by being re-elected in a constituency that has distinguished itself for handing legislators only one term to serve.
The MP was first elected to Parliament in 2007 on a Party of National Unity ticket.
Analysts agree that it will be an uphill task to unseat her, given her strong networks in the five wards.
The incumbent, a grassroots mobiliser, enjoys the support of women and the elderly. Her critics, however, feel that the MP is ‘old’ and should pave way for younger blood.
Ms Murugi is not your typical politician who calls for a press conference when launching a project. She operates quietly, organising her barazas and project launches.
At least five aspirants – four of them men – have declared interest in the seat.
They include two political analysts – former Orange Democratic Movement political adviser Wambugu Ngunjiri and Duncan Mathenge, who served as the late Governor Nderitu Gachagua’s political adviser.
Mr Mathenge contested unsuccessfully in 2013 on a Grand National Union party but lost to Ms Murugi.
Also in the race are Patrick Ngatia, Stanley Gacheru and Josephine Kagure. All the six are battling for the Jubilee Party ticket.
GNU founded by Devolution Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri is among parties that dissolved to form Jubilee party.
Mr Mathenge managed 21,154 votes while Ms Murugi garnered 28,552 votes. This will be Mr Mathenge’s third stab at the seat.
Mr Wambugu on the other hand presents himself as fresh blood.
He holds that the constituency is yearning for a youthful leader who will interact easily with the constituents.
“Her politics are based on the old Constitution. The youth want leaders who can associate with their problems,” he says.
The newspaper columnist, however, has to shed off the opposition tag, which his opponents are riding on.
He has pledged to assist youth access the promised 30 per cent of all government tenders, which he adds, the incumbent had given little attention to.
He has set up a secretariat compromised of youth to manage his campaigns.
Two billboards mounted at strategic points in town is evidence that he is leaving nothing to chance.
In politics Ms Murugi identifies herself as Mama Simba, to support her well-known tough demeanour.
To counter this, Mr Ngunjiri has adopted Simba wa Nyeri as his slogan. This has led to a fierce war on social media between the two rivals’ supporters.
Ms Murugi was the first MP in the county to fall out with then Nyeri Governor Nderitu Gachagua.
Her differences with the late governor, however, have always been described as issue-based rather than mere politics.
The two differed publicly over many issues among them the conversion of a clinic into a rehabilitation centre.
The dispensary was constructed using money from the Nyeri Constituency Development Fund and Economic Stimulus Package.
Her ability to stand up against other leaders has earned her immense admiration from her constituents.
But this exactly is also what her rivals are riding on to fight her.
“We need a leader who can sit down with other leaders and discuss real issues,” Mr Mathenge notes.
He says his time in office will be based on a performance contract.
Ms Murugi was among the politicians chosen to lead President Uhuru Kenyatta’s county presidential campaign team in his re-election bid.
The aspirant has continuously challenged the incumbent’s development record accusing her of initiating projects but abandoning them halfway through.
With a promise to complete stalled projects Mr Mathenge is hopping to convince the electorate to vote in his favour.