Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt has insisted that Julia Kee can take Gary Middleton’s seat in the May Assembly election.
The battle for the one unionist seat held by the DUP man promises to be one of the most heated of the campaign now that former DUP man Maurice Devenney has thrown his hat into the ring as an independent.
“On the Nationalist side of things with Martin McGuinness coming back to the city a lot of focus will be on the fight between Sinn Fein and the SDLP,” he said on his visit to the new Siege Museum in Londonderry city centre on Monday.
“But as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party I have always considered this city to be one where I want an Ulster Unionist member of the legislative Assembly.
“I think we have a very good candidate in Julia Kee. I am here to support her and to recommend her to the voters of the city.”
The DUP has repeatedly called for unanimity among unionist candidates, fearing a split in the vote could lose the seat to a nationalist.
“Once again the DUP are resorting to project fear,” Mr Nesbitt said.
“If you don’t vote for us something bad will happen.
“I’m fed up with Project Fear and fed up with the DUP who have had two full mandates and nine years directing Stormont from the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister and they have achieved nothing.
“All they can say is vote for us because if you don’t you are going to get something else that you don’t like.”
“I think it is crucial that there is Ulster Unionist representation for the second city, because I think we can do an awful lot better than the DUP.”
Mr Devenney held talks with the Ulster Unionist leader on his last visit to the city last week - but was unable to come to an accommodation with them.
He commands a faithful local following and will make sure that the May 5 election is a close run thing.
“Maurice Devenney approached us and seemed to be on route to joining the party,” said Mr Nesbitt.
“He made a public statement that he was going to join and I came up here to meet him.
“I sensed something was wrong and he then subsequently said there were a number of issues, which was news to me.
“As far as I am concerned, that is in the past and we are right behind Julia Kee.”