THE Newcastle Liberal Party is set to roll-out a reinvigorated line-up at September’s local government election, with the list of nominees revealing that the kids are flexing their muscles.
The deadline for nominations for preselection closed on Monday, and the list of candidates includes a host of new faces.
While party stalwarts Brad Luke and David Compton appear set to hold onto their spots, both Sharon Waterhouse and the already-departed Lisa Tierney will make way on the ticket for what the Liberals hope will be at least two new faces on the 12-person council.
At the top of the list of likely nominees in Ward 1, exclusively seen by the Newcastle Herald, is former federal candidate for Shortland, John Church.
Mr Church, a former NBN newsreader and currently the head of marketing at Newcastle real estate firm PRD, could not be contacted on Friday, but it’s understood he had been urged to run by senior party figures in Newcastle who like his name recognition and policy smarts.
But there’s also an influx of youth among the nominees.
Lachlan Stronach, the son of developer Keith Stronach, is understood to be among the nominees, as is Wallsend Young Liberals branch president Hannah Eves, and young members Blake Keating and Taylor Wright.
It’s a mix of experience and youth that party figures hope will challenge the Labor-Greens control of the council.
But, while it’s still early days in the pre-selection process, the Herald understands that an outbreak of what’s being interpreted as factional “brinkmanship” is threatening to disrupt the usually tranquil Newcastle Liberal Party, with conservatives and moderates in the party at loggerheads because of one member’s decision to put his hand up for council pre-selection.
While the names on the list reveal a crowded – and reenergized – ticket, one name has left party figures bemused and frustrated.
James Thomson, 24, was one of two men spotted by Maitland Labor MP Jenny Aitchison and her husband, Robert, allegedly cutting down Meryl Swanson corflutes and replacing them with Karen Howard’s near Stockland Green Hills during last year’s federal campaign in Paterson. At the time, Mr Aitchison, a Maitland councillor, alleged that one of the men – Mr Thomson – pushed him. He reported the incident to the police but no charges were laid.
But Mr Thomson’s decision to nominate for council has annoyed some members for other reasons.
Since March 2016 the Young Liberal member has been subject to an interim apprehended violence order that, the Newcastle Herald understands, restricts him from approaching or contacting a person he previously shared a house with.
Mr Thomson declined to comment when contacted by the Herald. That interim AVO is due back in court on Monday, and while the Herald does not allege any wrong-doing on Mr Thomson’s part, his name on a nomination form is causing unrest because conservatives in the party’s Newcastle branch believe some moderates in Wallsend encouraged him to put his hand up.
It’s putting a strain on the truce that’s existed between the Newcastle branch of the party and the Wallsend Young Liberals, who were merged into the same conference last year.
While traditionally council elections have been dominated by the stalwarts in the Newcastle branch like Mr Luke, the merger has given Young Liberals like Ms Eve an increased say in the process.
In any case, whether or not Mr Thomson’s nomination will be accepted by Liberal Party head office is not known, and the party’s hierarchy are at pains to point out all candidates are vetted before nominations are accepted – but Ms Aitchison said she hoped they would “see sense”.
“I think that it’s important that anyone who stands for elected office in our community adheres to the highest standards,” she said.
“Where there are questions about someone’s commitment to providing a good role model for the community, whether that’s violence or appropriate behaviour, we hope the Liberal Party makes a good decision to ensure they have the best representative for their party in the council.
“It goes to the standard of conduct you accept.”
Where there are questions about someone’s commitment to providing a good role model for the community, whether that’s violence or appropriate behaviour, we hope the Liberal Party makes a good decision to ensure they have the best representative for their party in the council- Jenny Aitchison
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