The Liberal Party says it will wait for this year’s local government elections before considering its 2019 state election contenders.
That’s despite the Opposition having already locked in its candidates for the state poll – which won’t be held for another 20 months.
The Mercury asked the Liberals’ HQ when the party planned to hold its Illawarra preselections and whether it would contest each of the region’s five state seats: Heathcote, Keira, Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama.
“The Liberal Party’s current focus is on fielding strong teams of Liberal candidates for the Wollongong and Shellharbour local government elections,” a party spokesman said.
“Decisions regarding the state election, due in 2019, will follow in due course.”
The Liberals didn’t contest the Wollongong byelection in November and, after leaving its candidate selection to the last minute, had a problem-plagued 2016 federal election campaign.
Its federal candidate for Whitlam, Doctor Carolyn Currie, withdrew just 13 days after she was declared a contender.
Dr Currie was later replaced by small businessman Marcus Hewitt.
The Labor Party has given itself an extensive period of time to campaign ahead of the 2019 state poll.
The Opposition’s three sitting MPs – Ryan Park, Paul Scully and Anna Watson – were last week preselected unopposed as candidates for their respective seats of Keira, Wollongong and Shellharbour.
Maryanne Stuart, who contested the 2015 state election, was endorsed as the Opposition’s Heathcote candidate earlier this year.
NSW Labor general secretary Kaila Murnain said the party was “excited to have completed preselections earlier than ever before” in the Illawarra.
“Preselecting candidates early gives them the opportunity to get into the field as early as possible and hold this out of touch Liberal government to account,” Ms Murnain said.
The Labor challenger to the sitting Kiama MP, Liberal Gareth Ward, is yet to be determined.
All Labor state election preselections should be finalised next year.