With the electorate of Eden-Monaro sitting vacant following the early retirement of Mike Kelly, Labor has turned to Bega Valley mayor Kristy McBain in an attempt to hold on to the marginal seat.
Ms McBain, who could now become the first female to hold the seat, won preselection for the upcoming by-election on Monday afternoon after Labor leader Anthony Albanese publicly endorsed her as his favourite for the job.
"I expect that Kristy will receive strong support. Kristy is a stand out as a local representative," Mr Albanese said.
With the by-election campaign on the horizon, Ms McBain said it "shouldn't be a spotlight on national issues", and said she intends to focus on drought and bushfire hit communities, and how they can rebuild after COVID-19 regulations are eased.
"I want to keep things focused on Eden-Monaro. I think Mike Kelly has been a fabulous member, and he really connected with people because he wasn't a career politician, and I want to continue that legacy," she said.
Ms McBain said she made her decision to shift to the top tier of politics in order to help improve the opportunities available for regional communities from "the inside", after years of lobbying government as mayor.
I am here for my community. I'm here because I want to represent my community.- Labor candidate Kristy McBain
She was quick to take aim at the federal and state governments, saying the region had been "left behind" after the recent bushfire emergency, and questioned why the struggling region has not been drought declared.
"We have people still living in tents and caravans on their properties," she said.
When questioned about her party membership, Ms McBain said she had recently rejoined the party after previously letting her membership lapse.
"My values have always been aligned with the Labor Party," she said.
"I am here for my community. I'm here because I want to represent my community."
After much speculation, state Nationals MP John Barilaro confirmed he will not contest the by-election, and government colleague Andrew Constance has said his options remain open. Last year's Liberal candidate for the electorate Fiona Kotvojs, who narrowly lost to Dr Kelly, and Liberal Senator Jim Molan have confirmed they will run for pre-selection.
Over the weekend, Yass businessman Michael Pilbrow said he would put his case to Labor's national executive, adding he was "disappointed there will not be a rank-and-file vote of party members in the electorate".
"Our members across the electorate volunteer their blood, sweat and tears for our party and deserve a say in selecting candidates for political office," he said.
Another local Labor member said they also felt the party should have held a rank-and-file pre-selection vote rather than a "captain's pick".
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