Senior Liberal Party officials will travel to Bendigo next week to resolve the candidate vacancy in the seat of Bendigo West.
With just over two months until the state election on November 24, the Liberals are yet to find a suitable candidate to challenge incumbent Labor MP Maree Edwards, who holds the seat by a margin of 12 per cent, and Greens candidate Laurie Whelan.
It’s understood the first person earmarked for the position did not follow through with the candidacy earlier this year after much deliberation, while a more recent option was not deemed suitable by party executives following a meeting last week.
A Liberal source confirmed the party would run a candidate it considered competent and would travel to Bendigo to speak with the local branch about the situation.
“The party has no appetite to pre-select someone for the sake of it,” the source said.
Nationals State Director Matthew Harris said it was “highly unlikely” the party would run a candidate in the electorate, but a final decision was yet to be made.
The Australian Country Alliance, who fielded two candidates in the 2014 state election, previously said it had no plans to run candidates in either Bendigo seat.
The Greens announced former Bendigo mayor Mr Whelan as a candidate for Bendigo West and La Trobe University psychology graduate Nakita Thomson for Bendigo East in July.
Asked whether her position as incumbent, in what many consider a safe seat, impacted on her ability to secure funding for her community, Ms Edwards said: “It doesn’t stop me going out there and working hard for my constituents just because there’s no other candidate in the field from the other major parties.”
“I look at it from the point of view that my communities are just as important as other communities in other electorates and I will continue to advocate for what they need.
“We only see and hear from the Liberals and the Nationals in Bendigo West when there’s an election looming.
“We don’t hear about them advocating for what our community want and need which is health investment, schools investment, jobs, infrastructure and transport investment.
“The fact that they (Liberal-Nationals) haven’t had a voice in Bendigo for the last four years and still don’t have a candidate means they just don’t care about Bendigo West.”
Mr Whelan said perhaps the Liberals’ ongoing search showed the major parties didn’t have the support of old. “It’s in the interest of everyone to have a broad choice (of candidates), but on the other hand it’s difficult being out there campaigning,” he said.
The seat of Bendigo East has four candidates; incumbent Labor MP Jacinta Allan, Liberal candidate Ian Ellis, Nationals candidate Gaelle Broad and Greens candidate Nakita Thomson.