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Libs left in lurch as Constance changes his mind on by-election

Politics

NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance has abandoned his bid to enter the federal Parliament less than 24 hours after announcing he would seek Liberal pre-selection at the Eden-Monaro by-election.

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Constance, whose state electorate of Bega overlaps the federal division of Eden-Monaro, was seen as a strong candidate.

Labor’s Mike Kelly holds the seat on a 0.9 per cent margin but resigned last week for health reasons, sparking a by-election.

A date for the by-election has yet to be announced, with coronavirus restrictions predicted to cause a delay.

Constance is expected to release a statement later today.

Yesterday, Constance said he believed he had a winning chance thanks to his experience in state politics.

Constance held the position of NSW Treasurer before taking on the transport portfolio.

“People just want someone who can give it a go and I think I can bring something special given that statewide experience,” he said.

Although he doesn’t reside in the Eden-Monaro electorate, Constance said he had strong family connections to the area.

“There’s a very real passion in Eden-Monaro in me,” he said.

“I’m fifth-generation farming family in the Monaro.”

He has held his seat of Bega for 17 years but rose to national prominence last summer for his regular public appearances during the bushfire crisis.

Yesterday, Deputy Premier John Barilaro confirmed he would not contest the by-election for the Nationals.

Both men previously vowed not to run against each other.

After withdrawing from the pre-selection race, text messages sent by Barilaro to Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, the federal Nationals leader, were leaked to the media.

“Don’t hide behind the ‘members will choose the candidate’ rubbish, as you were the only one saying such lines,” Barilaro wrote.

“Don’t you think my branches would have backed me in?

“To feel threatened by me clearly shows you have failed your team and failed as a leader.

“You will never be acknowledged by me as our leader. You aren’t. You never will be.

“The Nats had a chance to create history, to change momentum, and you had a candidate that was prepared to risk everything to make it happen.

“What did you risk? Nothing.

“Hope you are proud of yourself.”

Labor endorsed Bega Valley Mayor Kristy McBain as its candidate on Monday.

ABC/ state political reporter Ashleigh Raper

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