"IT'S bizarre," Page MP Janelle Saffin muttered out the side of her mouth as a gaggle of teenage girls surrounded former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd outside Lismore's Red Dove Centre.

"They all do this, but he looks so nerdy."

Ms Saffin can say stuff like that. She and Mr Rudd are about as good a pair of mates as you'll find in Australian politics ("she's stuck by me through thick and thin," Mr Rudd later told the packed crowd inside the centre).

Besides, it's not like she's the first to notice.

Mr Rudd was in town to launch the election campaign for Lismore's six Labor council candidates, Jenny Dowell, Isaac Smith, Ray Houston, Glenys Ritchie, Naomi Worral and Kevin Bell, and not - definitely not - to maintain his public profile for a future tilt at the Labor leadership.

"I'm here because Janelle asked me to come," he said. "I'm choosing to go out and support my friends."

The Lismore Labor ticket is the third local government election ticket Mr Rudd has launched of late.

Earlier yesterday he was at Tweed Heads doing the same for the Tweed Labor team alongside Justine Elliot - another Labor MP who backed him solidly during the party's bloody leadership battle in February.

He has also launched campaigns for Labor candidates in the Brisbane City Council elections.

Regardless of his reasons for doing the launches, yesterday showed Mr Rudd remained popular in Lismore.

There were more than 150 people at the Red Dove Centre yesterday and it seemed as though most of them wanted to get a picture taken with the nation's best known backbencher.

At one point after the speeches were done, people (including more teenage girls) were queuing up, waiting for their moment with Kev in much the same way children await their turn with Santa Claus.

As each person's turn came, they'd get a short moment with the country's ex-boss, offer up their wish and then stand for their photo.

One fan even arrived with a perfectly preserved Kevin '07 T-shirt and flag for Mr Rudd to sign.



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