The by-election for the New South Wales state seat of Wagga Wagga on September 8 arises from the sudden career implosion of Daryl Maguire, after Independent Commission Against Corruption investigators recorded a phone call in which Maguire appeared to seek payments in lobbying for development applications on behalf of a Chinese developer. Maguire at first resigned from the Liberal Party after the recording was heard in early July, and from the parliamentary secretary position he had held since February 2014, but initially declared himself set on remaining in parliament until the election due in March. However, he bowed to pressure to resign after the Nationals indicated they would abstain from a looming Labor motion for his expulsion.
Shortly after Maguire's resignation, the Nationals made a contentious decision to bow to demands from Premier Gladys Berejiklian not to field a candidate in the seat, which has been in Liberal hands since 1957, but came close to falling to the Nationals when it last fell vacant in 1999. The criticism mounted as it became apparent the Liberals were losing confidence in their ability to ward off an independent challenge, with Berejiklian saying a fortnight out from polling day that a Liberal win would be “miraculous” in the circumstances. A ReachTEL poll conducted for Shooters Fishers and Farmers at around this time had the Liberals on 30.2%, Labor on 23.8%, independent Joe McGirr on 18.4% and Shooters Fishers and Farmers on 10.9%. However, Shooters Fishers and Farmers have aided the Liberal cause by putting Labor high on their how-to-vote cards, reducing McGirr's chances of overtaking Labor and reaching the final count.
The Liberal candidate is Julia Ham, an Oberne Creek farmer and Snowy Valleys councillor, who prevailed over John Larter, Snowy Valleys deputy mayor, Sarah Lawrence, former adviser to Drummoyne MP John Sidoti, and Stephane Rowe, an army officer. Labor has endorsed Dan Hayes, a psychologist and Wagga Wagga councillor. Most of the media speculation surrounding a possible defeat has centred on independent candidate Joe McGirr, former director of emergency medicine at Wagga Wagga Base Hospital, who polled 30.6% of the priamry vote at the 2011 election, but was unable to seriously troube Maguire who retained over 50% of the primary vote. Also in the field as an independent is Paul Funnell, a Wagga Wagga councillor. The Shooters Fishers and Farmers candidate is Seb McDonagh, a local IT worker.
The electorate of Wagga Wagga covers around 12,500 square kilometres of southern New South Wales, encompassing the shires of Tumut in the east, Wagga Wagga in the centre and Lockhart in the west. The seat has had a continuous existence going back to 1927, in which time it has changed hands twice: from the Country Party to Labor in 1941, and from Labor to Liberal in 1957. The Nationals last fielded a candidate when Daryl Maguire succeeded Joe Schipp in 1999, and came within 398 votes of overtaking him at a key point at the count, with preferences almost chasing down a gap of 25.4% to 22.9% on the primary vote. With the Nationals out of the equation, Maguire enjoyed consistent double-digit margins over Labor thereafter.