NATIONALS members from across the Calare electorate will gather in Bathurst on Saturday to preselect their candidate to replace retiring MP John Cobb.
Just four names will appear on the ballot but there is a rich prize up for grabs.
Mr Cobb has increased the Nationals’ margin at each election and secured a 66-34 two-party preferred vote at the 2013 poll.
The winner of Saturday’s preselection is all-but guaranteed victory at the federal election later this year and a virtual job for life as the Nationals’ Member for Calare.
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The general public will not vote in Saturday’s preselection but Fairfax Media reporters across the central west have prepared this form guide to give readers an insight into the four people seeking to become their new representative in Canberra.
The candidates were asked to provide a piece on what their priorities would be if they were successful at the election and how their success should be judged in their first year in office.
However, state secretary Nathan Quigley said the party’s position was candidates should refrain from giving media comment in the lead-up to a preselection and they would not be providing written submissions.
Here's Fairfax Media's form guide ...
Occupation: State member for Orange, formerly a barrister in civil litigation and family law.
Key supporters: Duncan Brakell and Ron Gander.
Odds: 2-1 on.
Form guide: Andrew Gee is arguably the Makybe Diva of the four candidates in the Calare preselection, a household name in his state seat of Orange with a proven track record during elections, having bettered his 2011 result in 2015.
While not the most active branch, the Orange branch is 280 members strong and the number of those members who turn up for the vote in Bathurst will have a decisive effect on the result.
He has been known to have at-times frosty relationships with councils, media outlets and members of his own party, and opinions of Mr Gee among branch members are mixed.
His current position could play a role in whether he is pre-selected.
Some members say his service as the state member in an environment of possible forced council amalgamations makes him too valuable to lose and he should stay in that position, while others have misgivings about the cost of a byelection, which could be in the realm of $450,000.
At a higher level, Mr Gee is said to have the support of Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce.
He became the Member for Orange in 2011 after moving to the region in 2005 and even if he misses out on a tilt at the federal seat, the state seat could still be affected, with an absence of Nationals branding on his website and social media fuelling speculation he could choose to spend the rest of his term as an independent.
Occupation: Wellington Information and Neighbourhood Centre manager and Wellington councillor.
Key supporters: Wellington branch of the National Party.
Form guide: Wellington mother Alison Conn already knows she is a long shot to be selected as the Calare candidate for the Nationals.
No woman has contested Calare for the Nationals, so her gender was something she considered before she joined the contest for the prize seat.
Ms Conn is married with one child and lives on the far reaches of the electorate.
“The Nationals have only three females in federal parliament – with one of those the inspirational deputy leader Fiona Nash from NSW,” she said.
“Warren Truss recently indicated that it is an advantage to be a woman in the National parliamentary team.’’
But beating the “men’s club” in the traditional country seat will not be an easy task.
Labor has won the seat five times and former TV presenter Peter Andren held the seat for 11 years as an independent.
Nationals and Liberals men have held sway as well.
Ms Conn has worked in mining and agriculture, among other industries and says she is championing the battler in Wellington.
The Wellington Information and Neighbourhood Centre she manages supplies various government social services to those needing help.
She is also at the forefront of the Gungie Origin Police campaign, working with the indigenous community to arrest Wellington’s deep-seated drug problem.
It’s understood Ms Conn would campaign on taxation reform, education, health, mobile tower blackspots and rural roads.
On Saturday Ms Conn will need to convince the bolted-on National Party membership that a woman can create history in one of the safest seats in the land.
Occupation: Hertz franchise owner-operator.
Key supporters: John Cobb and Brett Kenworthy.
Form guide: Sam Farraway might not be a household name across the Calare electorate, but he is well-known – and well-regarded – within the Nationals.
Mr Farraway has a very strong supporter base in his home town of Bathurst but will likely need to win votes from the Orange branch to have a realistic chance of winning the preselection ballot.
Mr Farraway is the owner of the Hertz franchise in Bathurst, having taken over the family business following his father’s death, but has held political aspirations from a young age.
Since 2010, he has also been president of the high-profile Bathurst Agricultural, Horticultural and Pastoral Association that runs the Royal Bathurst Show each year and is closely aligned with the Nationals’ Calare Federal Electoral Council president Brett Kenworthy, another executive member of the Bathurst AH&P.
The key to Mr Farraway’s preselection bid, though, will be the influence retiring MP John Cobb has on voting members.
While he has refused to say so publicly, it is well-known within the party that Mr Cobb is a strong supporter of Mr Farraway’s and the two have been seen together at numerous photo opportunities around the electorate in recent weeks.
Mr Cobb’s success in convincing members that Mr Farraway is the best candidate to replace him will go a long way to deciding the outcome of Saturday’s ballot.
Occupation: Butcher and Orange councillor.
Key supporters: Duncan Brakell.
Form guide: Scott Munro has been labelled the dark horse in the contest and comes into the preselection via an unusual route.
The father of four was the first to announce his intention to stand for the seat of Calare all the way back in 2012 before he was elected to Orange City Council and then again in January last year, on the proviso sitting member John Cobb retired.
Cr Munro initially intended to seek endorsement from the Orange branch, but ultimately won favour in Lithgow after branch president Peter Pilbeam decided not to stand.
But the Orange-based butcher, who also has a farm in Cumnock, has no clear support base despite the Lithgow endorsement.
He has appeared to conduct his campaigning solo, banking on his business and rural credentials and his ‘what you see is what you get’ persona.
However, branch members have not ruled out his chances, particularly if he can set himself apart through his policy platform.
Cr Munro has served on Orange City Council since 2012 after he was elected on the Nationals ticket with the idea of turning Cadia’s open pit into a landfill site and counts former Nationals state member and fellow councillor Russell Turner as one of his mentors.
If he is unsuccessful at preselection, Cr Munro has said it won’t be the end of the road and he intends to nominate for the seat of Orange should fellow pre-selection candidate Andrew Gee vacate the position.
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