THE announcement of a Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate to contest the seat of Calare at next month's federal election has really set the clock ticking on the campaign.
Orange councillor Sam Romano is the SFF's candidate to challenge the Nationals' Andrew Gee and Labor's Jess Jennings at the May 18 poll.
The SFF had not intended to announce its candidate until Monday but, on this occasion, the local rumour mill has done the party a great favour.
With just five weeks until an election where the SFF could do some real damage, Mr Romano will need every day he can to build a larger profile in the region.
Curiously, two of the three candidates confirmed so far for Calare are already serving as councillors and they both face the same challenge. Dr Jennings is well known around the Bathurst end of Calare but less known around Orange, while it's vice-versa for Mr Romano.
Both SFF and Labor are likely to continue the "Put Nats Last" mantra that has haunted the Nationals over the past 18 months or so.
As the incumbent, Mr Gee has a good profile across the whole electorate but both SFF and Labor are likely to continue the "Put Nats Last" mantra that has haunted the Nationals over the past 18 months or so.
Together they will hope to at least slash Mr Gee's 12 per cent margin and a review of voting patterns at the recent state election must give them confidence.
The SFF's Phil Donato (Orange) and Brenden May (Bathurst) tallied a combined 32,216 first preference votes across the two electorates, not that far behind the 41,017 votes the Nationals' Paul Toole (Bathurst) and Kate Hazelton (Orange) picked up.
The Labor pair of Beau Riley (Bathurst) and Luke Sanger (Orange) were well back in third with a total of 15,564 first preference votes across the two electorates.
If those voting patterns were repeated on May 18 it would be a disaster for Dr Jennings, but no one expects that to happen.
The personal popularity of Mr Toole and Mr Donato greatly inflated their parties' respective vote but the federal poll lacks a star candidate to match either of them.
Dr Jennings optimistically rates himself a "50-50" chance of winning the seat but, to do that, he must first finish ahead of Mr Romano.
If he does, it will be a question of how close he is to Mr Gee before the final preferences are distributed.
Mr Gee must still start favourite in this race, but the finish should be much tighter than the past two elections.
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