OUR SAY: Where's the Labor contender? Orange must not be taken for granted

NSW is still eight months out from an election but with Nationals MP for Orange Andrew Gee announcing last week he would run again in March it is clear at least one of the major parties is getting its house in order.

Any opponent can expect an uphill battle to unseat an MP who polled 74 percent of the vote on a two-party preferred basis in what has become one of the safest Nationals seats in the state.

Even allowing for a swing away from the Coalition in 2015 after their landslide win in 2011 when voters caned a stale and at times incompetent Labor government, Mr Gee is in a very safe position.

And it will remain safe the longer it takes the Labor Party to endorse a candidate.

In Bathurst, Labor at least learned from the last election where a late nomination from an unknown candidate resulted in a staggering 36.5 percent swing to the popular Nationals candidate Paul Toole.

In a seat that had been represented consistently by Labor’s Gerard Martin and before him Mick Clough, Mr Toole’s performance was staggering.

Public servant and union office bearer Cassandra Coleman has been Labor’s pick since November 2013, which will give her some 16 months to raise her profile and critique the policies and performance of Mr Toole and the O’Farrell-then-Baird led state government.

By contrast Labor in Orange has been deathly quiet.

There is no endorsed Labor candidate and nor is there any obvious contender. 

While Labor’s last candidate for the federal seat of Calare Jess Jennings has been nipping around the heals of John Cobb, who has avoided anything resembling a public debate, at a state level Mr Gee has a clear run to the line.

It fosters what many in Orange see as the natural order of things, but it does nothing for a robust contest of ideas in an electorate the Baird government may take for granted.

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