Nationals leader and Deputy Premier John Barilaro says he believes Nationals candidate for Orange Kate Hazelton will put up a strong fight in the state election.
"I think for us having someone like Kate, not only a great background story and a connected story in the community, but someone that has actually got a bit of fire in the belly [is good]," he said.
"I think she's got the fight, got the connections, local, gets regional and sometimes we just needed to be reminded of that and I think that's the exciting part of Kate joining the party."
Mr Barilaro said the Member for Orange Phil Donato was the favourite for the March 23 poll but he said it would be close.
"I still think we're in the race here. I think Kate's going to surprise everybody," he said.
Mr Barilaro said the drawn-out process of selecting Mrs Hazelton after Orange City councillor Tony Mileto's bid was rejected by the party and Yvette Quinn resigned from the role after a few months had not helped.
I still think we're in the race here. I think Kate's going to surprise everybody.NSW Nationals leader and Deputy Premier John Barilaro
"I know, in this electorate we had an issue with Tony Mileto. I like Tony, he would have been a good candidate but the reality is there was an issue there that we had to deal with and I sure if he was our candidate we would be having to answer that question everyday," he said.
"I think that caused a bit of grief on the ground and we had to have a couple of goes at it.
"I feel for Yvette, she put her hand up, very young.
"I'm a father of three daughters and I don't think my daughters will ever get into politics watching what has happened. They see it everyday.
"I think Yvette still would have been still a fantastic candidate and for anyone to cast doubt on that, it is what it is.
"But we she's made a decision not to do it but we've got Kate, we move on and I' m excited about that."
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