The normal order of Senate elections in South Australia has been disturbed since 2007 by the emergence of Nick Xenophon, who won election for himself in 2007 and 2013, and for an additional two Senate candidates of his party in the double dissolution election of 2016, along with a further seat in the House of Representatives. It remains to be established if the party, which is now called the Centre Alliance, can sustain its success now that Xenophon is himself out of the picture, having led an unsuccessful bid to establish it in the South Australian lower house at the March 2018 state election.
In earlier times, South Australia was a stronghold of the Australian Democrats, who won a seat at every election from 1980 to 2001, and two at the double dissolution election of 1987. The first five elections in the era of six-seat half-Senate elections, from 1990 through to 2001, produced identical results of Liberal three, Labor two and Democrats one. After the six seats split evenly between Liberal and Labor with the eclipse of the Democrats in 2004, the Greens won their first ever seat in 2007, and have won a single seat at each election since, though not always in convincing fashion.
Nick Xenophon, who had held a seat in the state upper house from 1997 to 2007, first won election to the Senate with almost exactly a single quota in 2007, and did not field candidates when he was not personally up for re-election in 2010. His electoral peak was reached with the extraordinary result of 2013, when he outpolled Labor with nearly a quarter of the statewide vote. However, this did not suffice to elect a second candidate for his party, then trading as the Nick Xenophon Group, owing to its refusal to engage in preference negotiations. The result was that Family First won a seat off 3.8% of the vote, beneficiary of the complex network of micro-party preference harvesters that had sprung up to take advantage of the group voting ticket system, and also from Labor and the Greens (albeit non-decisively in the latter case), who contentiously put them ahead of Xenophon's second candidate.
With a double dissolution election and the abolition of group voting tickets in 2016, the Nick Xenophon Team (now so called) won three seats despite failing to match its vote share in 2013. Of the remaining seats, four were won by Liberal, three by Labor, one by the Greens and one by Family First, who narrowly retained their seat at the expense of Labor's fourth candidate. In the allocation of six-year and three-year terms after the election, Labor, Liberal and the Nick Xenophon Team were granted two long terms each, with the three-year terms going two Liberal and one each to Labor, the Nick Xenophon Team, the Greens and Family First.
Family First has since merged with Cory Bernardi's Australian Conservatives, and its seat was lost to the Liberal Party consequent to the disqualification in April 2017 of its Senator, Bob Day, on the grounds that he held a pecuniary interest with the Commonwealth, in violation of Section 44 of the Constitution. A recount ordered by the High Court elected the second candidate on the party's 2016 ticket, Kenyan-born Lucy Gichuhi, who shortly after refused to participate in the Australian Conservatives merger. She then sat as an independent for a year before joining the Liberal Party. Of the six Senators allocated long terms, five remain the other being Nick Xenophon, who was replaced by Rex Patrick after quitting to make his state election run in November 2017.
The Liberal ticket is headed by Anne Ruston and David Fawcett, the two candidates elected as Liberals in 2016 who were allocated three-year terms. However, the party's newly acquired Senator, Lucy Gichuhi, was unable to secure preselection for a winnable spot, and will contest the election from fourth position.
Anne Ruston is a former state government policy adviser and proprietor of Ruston's Roses, a wholesale flower-growing business and tourism attraction in the Riverland town of Renmark. Ruston was initially preselected with moderate faction support in 2012 for the third position on the Liberal ticket at the 2013 election, but this was superseded two months later when she was chosen to fill a casual vacancy created by the resignation of Mary Jo Fisher. Since Fisher had most recently been elected in 2010, the seat Ruston filled was not up for re-election in 2013. Ruston won promotion to parliamentary secretary rank after Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister in September 2015, but she was only able to secure third position on the Senate ticket in 2016, and hence a three-year term, due to the seniority of moderate faction colleague Simon Birmingham, who took the first position. She was identified as having lined up against Peter Dutton and in favour of Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison in the leadership ballots in August last year.
David Fawcett was first elected in the lower house seat of Wakefield in 2004, where he eked out a narrow victory at the peak of the Liberals' fortunes, and was then unseated in 2007 by Labor's Nick Champion. With the support of the state party's right faction, which at the time was closely associated with then Senator Nick Minchin, he won preselection for the third position on the Senate ticket in 2010, where he narrowly won the last seat ahead of Family First. He was fourth on the ticket at the 2016 double dissolution election, which was comfortably sufficient to get him elected, albeit only to a short term seat. Fawcett voted for Peter Dutton in his challenge against Malcolm Turnbull last August, but then fell in behind Scott Morrison. He was one of the last MPs to add their signature to the petition that brought on the second spill, and backed Morrison over Dutton in the ensuing vote.
Third on the Liberal ticket is Alex Antic, an Adelaide councillor, lawyer and factional conservative. Antic had hoped to win his faction's favour to take a higher position than Fawcett, but the votes of moderates overwhelmingly favoured Fawcett on the second round of voting after Ruston secured the top position. He then prevailed for the third position by 117 votes to 93 ahead of Lucy Gichuhi, also a factional conservative, who had been backed by John Howard and Malcolm Turnbull. Gichuhi came to Australia from Kenya in 1999 at the age of 37, and worked as an accountant before completing a law degree and taking a position with the Women's Legal Service. The party's leadership crisis of last August came a month after her failure to gain a winnable spot on the ticket, and she lined up against her notional conservative backers by supporting Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison over Peter Dutton.
Labor's ticket will be headed by Alex Gallacher, the sole Labor Senator who was allocated a three-year term after the double dissolution. Gallacher is a former state secretary of the Right faction Transport Workers Union who first ran from the top of the ticket in 2010, but was relegated to third position in 2016 to accommodate both Penny Wong and powerful factional colleague Don Farrell. He had originally been preselected to the top position in expectation of a normal half-Senate election, but Farrell launched a comeback bid when the double dissolution was sprung, after losing his seat at the 2013 election and then being thwarted in his attempt to enter state politics at the March 2014 election by the intervention of the then Premier, Jay Weatherill.
In second position is Marielle Smith, a former adviser to retiring Adelaide MP Kate Ellis. Like Ellis, Smith is a member of the Right, which accordingly takes the top two positions on the ticket to compensate for it absorbing the abolition of one of the state's House of Representatives seats. InDaily reports the arrangement froze out the Left-aligned Karen Grogan, former chief-of-staff to Mark Butler and current adviser to state party leader Peter Malinauskas. Smith also had to overcome Right-aligned Jo Chapley, who gained swings against sitting state Liberals in Norwood in 2014 and Adelaide in 2018 (in the former case against Steven Marshall).
The third candidate is Left-aligned Emily Gore, secretary of disability support organisation Independent Advocacy.
The Centre Alliance ticket will be headed by Skye Kakoschke-Moore, a former adviser to Nick Xenophon who was elected to his party's third position at the 2016 double dissolution election, giving her its only short term seat. Kakoschke-Moore was obliged to resign in November 2017 after events made it clear that she had been ineligible to stand by virtue of dual British citizenship acquired by descent through her Singaporean-born mother. This resulted in her seat being lost to the party, as the candidate elected on the recount, Tim Storer, had become estranged from it since running as its fourth placed candidate in 2016. Storer has since sat as an independent, and will not be seeking re-election. Kakoschke-Moore again secured preselection after Xenophon ruled out a comeback after the failure of last year's state election bid.
The lead Greens candidate is Sarah Hanson-Young, whose election in 2007 made her the state's first Greens Senator and, at 25, the youngest woman ever elected to the federal parliament. She had previously been president of the University of Adelaide's student association, and had more recently worked for Amnesty International. Hanson-Young twice contested the party's deputy leadership, first by challenging Christine Milne after the 2010 election and then seeking the position when Milne was elevated to the leadership after Bob Brown's departure in April 2012, when she lost out to Adam Bandt. Despite emerging as one of the party's highest profile figures, Hanson-Young lost the important immigration portfolio in a reallocation of responsibilities after the 2016 election. She has resisted suggestions she might seek to depose Richard Di Natale as leader after the coming election.