Businesswoman and mum is latest candidate for Hartlepool MP
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Samantha Lee set up her own public relations firm 15 years ago, after a decade-long career in journalism, and has represented the town within the region's business groups.
"As a mother to seven-year-old Billy, the lack of opportunities offered to him and other youngsters when they grow up frightens me," said Sam, 44.
"There should be no reason for this. Hartlepool is a town with huge potential. We just don't have a voice speaking up for us and haven't for a very long time.”
Born in Cameron's Hospital and educated at Brierton and later Hartlepool Sixth Form and Hartlepool College of FE, Samantha is hoping local knowledge will give her an advantage: "Every time there is an election, we see people parachuted into Hartlepool for a couple of weeks, then as soon as the election is finished, they jump on the Grand Central and go back to wherever they came from,” she said.
"I'm out and about in Hartlepool every single day, not just because I'm trying to win votes, I live here. I speak to parents at the school gates, I deal with businesses, I socialise with friends in the pubs.”
Samantha is keen to push the benefits of the town's new freeport status: "Hartlepool was recently made a freeport, and we have vast swathes of developable land around our port that is ripe for attracting big companies,” she said.
"I know first hand what a poor share we get as compared to the rest of the region and that's because we haven't had someone working with the purse string holders proposing intelligent solutions for a very long time. If the people of Hartlepool want me to do that I will stand for them.
"Put an independent in and they demand what's due to Hartlepool and nothing else. These parties will tell you that voting for an independent is a wasted vote - don't fall for it."
A by-election has been called following the sudden resignation of Labour MP Mike Hill last month after almost four years and will take place on Thursday, May 6.
The final list of candidates is expected to be revealed no later than April 9.