The Liberals will this evening preselect their candidate for the Wentworth by-election, the date for which has now been confirmed.
Friday, September 14
A marathon Liberal preselection that concluded at 1am has turned up something of an upset, with preselectors comprehensively defying Scott Morrison’s edict that the position should go to a woman. The ultimate winner was Dave Sharma, who defeated Richard Shields in the final round by 119 votes to 83. Morrison’s favoured candidate, Katherine O’Regan, crashed out early, managing only fifth place. The other leading woman candidate, Mary Lou Jarvis, was next to go, leaving Sharma, Shields and Peter King standing at the penultimate round. It would seem O’Regan was deserted in droves in favour of Sharma after the latter received the endorsement of John Howard and Malcolm Turnbull.
Thursday, September 13
The Wentworth by-election date was set yesterday for October 20, with rolls closing Monday week, and nominations closing the following Thursday and being declared on the Friday. The most high-profile potential independent, Kerryn Phelps, is reportedly waiting on this evening’s Liberal preselection before deciding if she will run. This is reckoned likely to be won by Katherine O’Regan, in part due to a consensus that the seat should go to a woman. Andrew Clennell of The Australian reports O’Regan is supported by moderate faction powerbroker Michael Photios, and “could get as many as 80 votes in the 120-vote local component of the 206-vote ballot”. O’Regan owns a consultancy firm, KTO, is a former deputy mayor of Woollahra council, and has been a staffer to state minister Robyn Parker and federal minister Warwick Smith.
Also said to be an outside chance is Mary Lou Jarvis, a Woollahra councillor Mary Lou Jarvis who has backing from the Right. Dave Sharma, the former Australian ambassador to Israel initially identified as the front-runner, has so far resisted pressure to withdraw, but Clennell reports one of his main backers, North Sydney MP Trent Zimmerman, has switched his support to O’Regan. Also in the field are Richard Shields, former deputy state party director and Insurance Council of Australia manager; Maxine Szramka, a rheumatologist; Michael Feneley, cardiologist and twice unsuccessful candidate for Kingsford Smith; Carrington Brigham, a digital communications specialist; and Peter King, the barrister who held the seat for a term from 2001 before being elbowed aside by Malcolm Turnbull, whom he then proceeded to run against unsuccessfully as an independent.
Following the poll circulated a few days ago by Andrew Bragg, Peter King has been circulating a poll of his own, conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 400. It shows Labor beating the Liberals 53-47 on a generic ballot, from primary votes of Liberal 36%, Labor 29%, independents 18% and Greens 16%. However, this becomes 50-50 when Peter King is specified as Liberal candidate, from primary votes of Liberal 35%, Labor 25%, Greens 17% and independents 13%.