Sports shooter Daniel Repacholi, endorsed on Friday as Labor's candidate for the seat of Hunter, has been tagged as a "celebrity candidate".
It could be his toughest gig.
The record of celebrity candidates is mixed, although we remember the winners.
Movie star Ronald Reagan became one of America's most popular presidents, comfortably winning two elections in the 1980s. In the early 2000s another Hollywood actor, Arnie Schwarzenegger, spread his star dust across California winning two terms as governor. And then, in 2017, reality-TV host Donald Trump threw his celebrity hat into the US presidential race, and cold shivers still run down our spines.
In Australia, Midnight Oil's Peter Garrett won the Sydney seat of Kingsford Smith three times between 2004 and 2013, distinguishing himself in the Rudd and Gillard Labor governments.
Celebrity status gave Nova Peris a winning position in the Northern Territory senate race in 2013 to become the nation's first ever female Indigenous parliamentarian, a distinction to accompany her 1996 Hockeyroos gold medal which made her the nation's first Indigenous Olympic champion.
Tennis ace, John Alexander, has held the Sydney seat of Bennelong since 2010, having defeated another celebrity candidate, ABC journalist Maxine McKew, who snatched Bennelong from sitting prime minister John Howard in 2007.
Thus far, Labor members have been denied a similar democratic say, the right to stand in a local pre-selection ballot, the right to vote.
In our region, NBN news reader Jodi McKay launched her distinguished political career as a celebrity candidate for Labor in the state seat of Newcastle in 2007, while 2HD radio presenter Meryl Swanson has charmed voters in the federal seat of Paterson in two election wins since 2016.
Often, though, celebrity candidates struggle for success on the political paddock. Rugby League's 13th Immortal, Mal Meninga, is the standout. Mal's honesty bubbled up in a radio interview during his 2001 tilt for a seat in the ACT's legislative assembly. Mal suddenly interrupted himself, "I'm buggered, I'm sorry, I have to resign," he said. And he walked out of the studio, and out of the electoral contest.
Fielding a celebrity candidate is seen as a way to rise above the pack in a close contest. In a safe seat, however, recognition isn't usually a problem.
Indeed, safe seats are often used to rescue an established politician in need of a parliamentary seat, like Labor's endorsement of Senator Kristina Keneally for the seat of Fowler in Sydney's west after faction heavies denied her a winnable position on Labor's senate team for the next election.
In our region, Melbourne trade unionist Greg Combet was parachuted successfully into the local seat of Charlton for the 2007 election, albeit with push-back from local branches.
The seat of Hunter has also hosted prominent parachute candidates. Its representative from 1901 to 1903 was the nation's first prime minister Sir Edmund Barton, from Sydney's eastern suburbs. Then in 1958 Labor leader H.V. 'Doc' Evatt was parachuted into Hunter when his Sydney seat of Barton looked under threat.
Otherwise, the electorate of Hunter has been born and bred Labor. One father-son dynasty - Rowley and Bert James - held the seat from 1928 to 1980, apart from the Doc's 1958-60 interlude. The other dynasty - Eric and Joel Fitzgibbon - has held the seat continuously since 1984, with Pelaw Main school teacher Bob Brown representing Hunter between 1980 and 1984.
The division of Hunter is a giant electorate, stretching from Muswellbrook and Sandy Hollow to Edgeworth and Wyee. To win, Repacholi needs the enthusiastic support of the division's local Labor branches. A publicity campaign to reach 125,000 voters needs mounting. Around 70 polling places need staffing.
Repacholi's primary opponent will be the Nationals' James Thomson, the community relations officer at Maitland Christian School. Thomson was preselected by local branches back in May.
Labor members have been denied a similar democratic say, the right to stand in a local pre-selection ballot, the right to vote.
We now wait to see whether the branches will embrace their minor celebrity, and whether Repacholi will find the voice to win over an electorate that swung against Labor in 2019 in a fashion unseen in this part of the world.
Repacholi has entered a contest where coming second doesn't give you a place on the podium.
Although, losing Hunter for Labor would be a first.
Phillip O'Neill is professor of economic geography at Western Sydney University.
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