Prime Minister John Key's media minders have shrugged off his description of Auckland Mayor John Banks as a super-mayor.
They say the comment, made at the National Party's Northern Convention, is "not an endorsement" for Mr Banks - and that it is for voters to determine in 2010.
But the comment has angered some rivals.
North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams says he is particularly insulted, given that the elections are still more than 15 months away and mayoral candidates have not yet been announced.
He wants an apology from Mr Key.
Labour says the comment is inappropriate and casts doubt on the integrity of the Government's reform process.