New Plymouth councillor Richard Handley is the first person to put their hand up to replace mayor Andrew Judd who says he will not seek a second term.
Mr Judd said he had been spat at and abused in the street over his failed attempt to introduce a Māori ward in New Plymouth and did not want to see the issue rehashed ahead of October's local body elections.
Mr Handley said Mr Judd had little option but to step aside at a personal level and it was a sad moment for the mayor who stood on principle on a very important issue.
The former chief executive of the Western Institute of Technology said he had no plans to advocate for non-elected Māori members on council should he win the mayoralty.
Mr Judd said he knew he had lost considerable public backing over his support for the inclusion of a Māori ward.
Veteran New Plymouth councillor Gordon Brown has come out in support of Mr Judd.
The councillor said he had witnessed the attacks Mr Judd had endured first hand.
Mr Brown said the two of them were on their way to a function when a man stopped them on the street and told Mr Judd there was more than one race in New Plymouth and that he was a disgrace.
He said he felt he had to apologise for the man's behaviour and Mr Judd had said "welcome to my world".
The Māori ward decision was quashed by a public-initiated referendum last year which rejected the proposal by 83 percent.
Mr Judd was elected in 2013 in a landslide victory over the incumbent mayor, Harry Duynhoven.