The New South Wales Liberal Party has followed the Poll Bludger’s orders and chosen Paul Nicolaou as its candidate for the November 26 Pittwater by-election. Former state and federal MP Stephen Mutch withdrew from the race late last week, presumably after concluding that he didn’t have the numbers, and Nicolaou prevailed over John Brogden staffer Rob Stokes with a healthy margin of 49 votes to 28. Nicolaou goes into the by-election with a 20.1 per cent Liberal margin and no challenge from Labor, although much is being made of Pittwater Mayor Alex McTaggart’s decision to run as an independent. McTaggart enjoys the happy circumstance of effectively identical electorate and municipal boundaries, but he has only been Mayor for a year and his council electoral record suggests he would have limited voter recognition. The group he led in Northern Ward last year won 25.7 per cent of the vote, a good deal less than the 49.2 per cent vote for Patricia Giles’s group in Central Ward. Giles’s claim that she was approached by Labor with an offer of assistance if she ran as an independent has a ring of truth about it, although Labor has vehemently denied it. She has instead entered the field as the candidate of Fred Nile’s Christian Democratic Party, effectively denying herself broad-based support. The other confirmed candidate is another Pittwater Councillor, Natalie Stevens, who will run for the Greens.