Ann Sudmalis will fly the Liberal Party flag in the seat of Gilmore at next year’s federal election after a convincing preselection win on Saturday.
The former Kiama councillor beat rivals Andrew Guile, Grant Schultz and Catherine Shields, claiming more than half the required votes from Liberal Party preselectors.
Mrs Sudmalis will replace outgoing MP and Liberal stalwart Joanna Gash, who decided in January she would not contest next year’s federal election, instead favouring a tilt at the role of mayor of Shoalhaven City Council.
Mrs Gash’s retirement will end her 16-year role as the Member for Gilmore, during which she built up a healthy 5 per cent margin.
Mrs Sudmalis yesterday said she was ‘‘surprised’’ at the result but welcomed the challenge.
‘‘I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the last five years as a staffer [for Mrs Gash],’’ she said.
‘‘I love the work, I love the people and this is just fantastic.’’
The race for Gilmore preselection has been dogged by factional infighting, with some members suspended and others resigning in disgust at the ‘‘dirty’’ tactics.
But hopefuls had to face the music on Saturday, with the 31-member preselection panel voting to install Mrs Sudmalis as the party’s fresh face for Gilmore.
Mrs Sudmalis secured 16 votes, ahead of Mr Guile, 10, Mr Schultz, four, and Ms Shields, one.
Mrs Sudmalis unsuccessfully contested the seat of Kiama at the 2007 state election. She will ‘‘champion the cause’’ for Gilmore if elected next year.
‘‘We have to get our infrastructure and unemployment issues addressed here, they’re huge,’’ she said.
Meantime, Mrs Gash, who last week said she was saddened to see the preselection descend into a brawl, endorsed Mrs Sudmalis.
‘‘Ann is a people’s person, she knows the community and she will be out there to win the votes for Gilmore,’’ she said.
‘‘She was a staffer of mine for five years, was on Kiama council and was a science teacher for 10 years and had 17 years in small business.’’