Two women have put their hands up to be The Nationals’ candidate for the seat of Wagga.
Veterinarian Lynne Bodell, from the Wagga Ratepayers’ Community, and agribusiness consultant Mackenna Powell will now face a vote on Saturday, December 15.
Julian McLaren, who had been widely tipped to run, but has not nominated, said on Friday that the “timing is not right for me”.
Mr McLaren, the father of three teenagers, said he was instead focusing on his family and work as a financial advisor.
The Nationals will be the only Coalition party to have a candidate in Wagga in the 2019 state election after a series of bitter bust-ups with the Liberals saw The Nationals not run in the September byelection.
After independent Joe McGirr won the byelection, the Liberals bowed out of the March poll, giving The Nationals a clear run.
Both Ms Powell and Ms Bodell said on Friday they were ready to take on Dr McGirr, who won Wagga from the Liberal party after almost 60 years.
“I am very passionate about this area. I have lived here all my life,” Ms Powell said.
“I feel it is very important to be involved.”
Ms Bodell believes being an independent was a disadvantage for Dr McGirr.
“Joe is a lovely man, but he doesn’t have the backing of a major party,” she said.
“Unless there is a hung parliament, his voice may not be heard.”
Dr McGirr said he was concentrating on his own job, but offered his congratulations to both candidates.
“I know how difficult and challenging it can be to make the decision to run,” he said.
Anabel Williams, NSW Nationals Wagga State Electorate Council chair, said she was pleased to see “two strong potential candidates” put their names forward.
“The people of Wagga were quite clear about their disappointment that The Nationals did not run at the recent byelection,” Mrs Williams said.
“Both Lynne and Mackenna have made a great contribution to the local community and I look forward to working with the successful candidate as we approach the March 2019 election.”
Wagga-based MLC Wes Fang said he was proud the NSW Nationals had found a strong, female-only field for preselection.
“Our party has worked hard to encourage and support more women running for preselection and we saw an all-female field in Cootamundra during that byelection, which gave us a fantastic MP in Steph Cooke, who is working tirelessly for her electorate,” Mr Fang said.
“I’m sure either Mackenna or Lynne would be great additions to the government and would ensure the people of Wagga got their fair share.”
Deputy Prime Minister and Member for Riverina Michael McCormack said he looked forward to working with the successful candidate to ensure the NSW Nationals had the strongest possible prospects of winning the seat of Wagga in March.
“Without a doubt this will be a tough-fought election, but we know our candidate will be up to any challenge they face,” Mr McCormack said.
“The people of Wagga made it very clear they wanted a Nationals candidate at this year’s byelection, well next year they’ll get a chance to vote for a strong candidate who’ll represent their interests in Parliament.”