Wagga voters will not get to pick between Coalition candidates in an upcoming byelection created by Daryl Maguire’s impending resignation.
National Party leaders and members have been tight-lipped about the decision not to go head-to-head with the Liberals.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced on Saturday that disgraced Wagga MP Daryl Maguire would resign from his seat.
“There will not be a three-cornered contest, the Liberal Party has held that seat for half a century and the Liberal Party has opened nominations,” she said.
A spokesman for Deputy Premier and Nationals leader John Barilaro said he had nothing to add to Mr Barilaro’s previous comments and referred questions to the Premier’s office.
Mr Barilaro had indicated that the Nationals were unlikely to run for Wagga in next year’s general election but he had left open the possibility of running in a byelection.
Mr Maguire will resign some time next week before parliament resumes on August 7, Ms Berejiklian said.
The announcement followed Mr Maguire’s decision to quit the Liberal Party this month in the face of a damaging anti-corruption hearing.
Labor had threatened to move a rare motion to expel Mr Maguire from parliament if he did not resign before the next sitting.
Mr Maguire was secretly recorded on several occasions trying to strike a deal in 2016 with then Canterbury City councillor Michael Hawatt, who is at the centre of an ICAC investigation.
Wagga financial adviser Julian McLaren last week put his hand up as a potential candidate for the Nationals in Wagga, and party members considered him a frontrunner for nomination.
Mr McLaren said on Sunday that he supported the Nationals’ decision not to run.
Mr McLaren had previously said he wanted his campaign to focus on Wagga’s infrastructure, cost-of-living issues and renewable energy’s impact on power prices if he were to run.
Wagga councillor Paul Funnell has previously said that the absence of the Nationals from a byelection could inspire a strong independent candidate to come forward.
On Sunday, Cr Funnell again would not confirm or deny getting personally involved in the byelection.
“My answer is still that I haven’t ruled anything in and I haven’t ruled anything out,” he said.
“There are a a lot of things for me do to on council, and that is my focus at this point in time.”
Prior to Ms Berejiklian announcement on Saturday, Charles Sturt University Associate Professor in political science Dominic O’Sullivan said Wagga would probably benefit from having both Coalition parties campaign.
“The whole point of democracy is choice, isn’t it?” he said.
“In that sense the greater choice people have, the better it is.”