2024 marks a historic year for the North East, with the upcoming election of a new regional mayor who will play a key role in shaping our region’s future.

That figurehead will lead a new combined authority that stretches across Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, and Durham and will represent around two million people.

The multi-billion pound devolution deal negotiated with the Government for the North East hands the mayor significant funding and decision-making powers that the region has not held before, such as the ability to take public control over bus services.

Ahead of the mayoral election on May 2, we have asked all six candidates the same 10 questions to give voters a sense of both their policies and their personalities.

Here, Labour’s Kim McGuinness talks family, beaches, and her campaign to stamp out knife crime.

Why should people care about the North East mayoral election? If you love this region and want a better future for it, this is our moment. This election is a chance to take power from London and hand it to the people of our region. We need to start taking more of the decisions that matter to the North East, in the North East and end the days of being forced to go cap in hand to Westminster. The devolution deal we have isn’t perfect, but it’s a start. I‘ll be the mayor who builds on this, pushes for more and ensures real devolution comes to our region.

READ MORE: Housing crisis explored by mayoral candidates in latest hustings

If you could do one thing as mayor to improve people’s lives, what would it be? Give everyone the opportunity to succeed. We talk a lot about the North-South divide, and it’s vital we address that gap, but there is division and inequality here in our North East. In some parts of our region the neighbourhoods where you can guarantee a child has what they need for success are just a couple of streets away from the neighbourhood where you can’t guarantee a child will have a hot meal that day. I want this region to be the home of real opportunity, helping families into good jobs and making public transport work for passengers.

What is your favourite place in the North East, and why? The beach at Newton-by-the-Sea, heading north towards Beadnell. We’re so lucky to have these tranquil, beautiful, expansive and invigorating places in the North East. This is where I go if I’m celebrating,  it’s where I go if I’m feeling down and need to lift my mood, it’s where I go to think. I take my dogs regularly and there’s a couple of lovely pubs nearby too. I love the fact you can get both a sense of calm and energy from all along the North East coast but Newton is my favourite beach.

What is (or was) your day job outside of politics? I feel really privileged to have served as Police Commissioner, putting prevention and improving people’s lives at the heart of fighting crime in our region. Before this, for around eight years I worked in business, managing relationships in banking and finance. I then spent a long time in the charity sector, in students’ unions, as well as supporting young people, veterans and people experiencing complex disadvantage. This was rewarding in a different way, a career that reminds me every day why fighting poverty and giving people access to real opportunity is so vital for our region’s future.

What is your proudest achievement in your political career so far? Working with knife crime victims’ families to save lives. Together we’ve educated thousands of kids on the dangers of knife crime and run region-wide campaigns to show young people what’s at risk. A defining moment came when we brought Sunderland AFC and Newcastle United together with Samantha’s Legacy and the Connor Brown Trust to unite against knife crime at the Wear Tyne derby.  It was phenomenal to see Tyne and Wear families who lost loved ones in horrendous circumstances standing together on the pitch cheered by both sets of fans. I’ve never been so proud of our region.

Other than becoming the North East Mayor, what would your dream job be? I love the idea of hosting a radio show like Anna Foster on BBC Newcastle or Lauren Laverne on Radio 4. We need more northern women with real accents in the media. It’s important to draw out real people’s stories and show young people who is out there and what’s possible – their job seems a fun way to do that. If you ask me what long-term success looks like as North East mayor, it’s seeing working-class kids succeed and some even becoming the stars of the future, so hopefully I’ll be helping make these jobs happen for future generations.

Who is your role model in life? My mam. She’s a proper North East matriarch. She’s the hardest-working, most resilient person I know and she’s got our family through some hard times. When I was young, dad was a scaffolder on the shipyards and mam worked in various part-time, low paid jobs. With both came financial instability, but we had a great childhood because mam shielded us from how hard it was and fought for the opportunities we were given. She won’t mind me saying, she’s now approaching retirement but still building a career and couldn’t do more to encourage the rest of us. She’s amazing.

If you could ban one thing in the North East, what would it be? Social media abuse. It’s a national problem, but we need to do more to clean up debate and make the internet safer for everyone. Bullying, harassment and outright abuse is becoming a bigger part of our political landscape, and I think most of us would prefer a North East where people can discuss the big issues with respect for each other.

If you could erect a statue somewhere in our region, who would it commemorate? The key workers who kept us going through Covid and lockdown. They got us through the pandemic and then they entirely disappeared from this Government’s narrative. The nurses and nursery workers, care workers, delivery drivers, shop workers, emergency services and so many more. People in the day-to-day jobs that kept us all going then and continue to now. For too many of these workers, the Tory cost of living crisis has taken them from the front line to the bread line. As mayor, I’ll invest in those people and those jobs. They deserve recognition.

If you didn’t win the mayoral election, which of the other candidates would you most like to win? I just wish there was another woman standing. Maybe I’d consider backing her.