The debate over Article 23 anti-subversion legislation that began nearly two years ago made household names out of some key players, and even today continues to reshape the city's political landscape. Liberal Party chairman James Tien Pei-chun, for instance, was catapulted into the limelight after he withdrew his support from the effort to push through the National Security Bill and resigned from Mr Tung's cabinet. Mr Tien's popularity soared as a result, and the Liberals now have an opening to exploit as they seek a mandate outside their traditional, business-interest base in the functional constituencies. Likewise for pro-democracy barristers like Alan Leong Kah-kit and Ronny Tong Ka-wah. Though well known in their profession, they were never household names before they were seen debating the finer points of law and governance during and after the Article 23 consultation. With the formal announcement yesterday of their candidacies in the autumn's Legislative Council election, Mr Leong and Mr Tong are seeking to turn their new-found prominence into legislative seats. The move, similar to the Liberals' plan to run in the geographical constituencies and thereby gain a broader mandate, is a welcome one. The diversity of voices and fresh faces should energise the campaigns and make this Legco poll one of the most interesting yet. There are serious issues at stake, including the pace of democratisation and Hong Kong's challenge in maintaining its advantages in the face of intensifying regional competition. Established parties such as the Democrats and the Liberals - as well as emerging parties like the Article 45 Concern Group to which Mr Leong and Mr Tong belong - will need to be able to effectively convey platforms covering a broad range of questions. With just over two months to go before the election, there is still much more to come. The Liberals and the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong, for instance, have yet to finalise their candidate lists and election strategies. But there is no question that voter perceptions of individual candidates will also play a role. Early polling, in which independent legislator Audrey Eu Yuet-mee does consistently well, suggests that those who can convey a sense of both charisma and integrity will have a fighting chance. Mr Leong's and Mr Tong's involvement in the Article 23 debate, and discussions since last July about introducing universal suffrage for the election of the chief executive and the entire legislature, will likely be a boon. The fact that incumbents from other pro-democracy groups do not always top popularity ratings indicates that, while still backing an early move towards democracy, the public is looking for new approaches to achieving the goal. In this respect, being first-time candidates - and relatively unknown quantities - should not hurt at all.