A SENIOR Upper Hunter National says he could nominate for preselection for the state seat held by MP Michael Johnsen “if the door opens”, as questions are asked about the preselection’s deferral to November 10.
Upper Hunter conference chair and Lend Lease construction manager David Layzell said he had not nominated “at this stage”, but “if for some reason there is an issue with the nomination process, if the door opens, then maybe I would, but at this stage I’m not”.
Mr Layzell confirmed the Upper Hunter conference executive committee was contacted by the NSW Nationals committee vetting nominations for the seat – with Mr Johnsen and Upper Hunter Shire councillor James Burns the two known nominees – and told “they needed more time to finish the vetting process”.
The preselection voting date was deferred from October 14 to November 10.
Mr Layzell said he did not ask why more time was needed but the party’s vetting process was “pretty thorough”, and the party was dealing with looming state and federal elections.
“They said they were just having issues so we agreed to the November 10 date,” he said.
Mr Layzell became conference chair in February after previous chair Mr Burns advised Mr Johnsen and the state executive he would be nominating to challenge the Upper Hunter MP and stand as the Nationals’ candidate in the March, 2019 state election.
The Nationals face stiff opposition after the formerly safe country seat became marginal in 2015 after a strong campaign by Muswellbrook mayor and Country Labor candidate Martin Rush. Mr Rush is running for Labor again.
Popular Upper Hunter councillor Lee Watts will stand as the Shooters Fishers and Farmers party representative.
Nationals state director Ross Cadell did not respond to a question about when the party would finalise the nomination process and announce its Upper Hunter candidates, but denied a decision was to be made on Wednesday this week.
Mr Johnsen did not respond to questions.
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