THE Liberal Party will not run a candidate in the new seat of Euroa at this year’s Victorian election, leaving it wide open for Nationals candidate Stephanie Ryan.
There had been speculation the Liberals would nominate a candidate, forcing a three-cornered contest.
The Deputy Premier Peter Ryan said on Saturday after addressing the Victorian Nationals annual conference in Benalla, that he hoped that would not happen.
“That’s a matter for the Liberal Party, but we have a Coalition agreement that, we believe when applied to Euroa, the Nationals have first claim to the seat,” he said.”
The member for Benambra, the Liberals’ Bill Tilley, later ruled out his party running a candidate.
The Euroa electorate takes in most of the abolished seat of Benalla, held by retiring National Bill Sykes, and part of Seymour, held by Liberal Cindy McLeish, who will be standing in the neighbouring seat of Eildon.
While the Coalition agreement prevents a member of one party running in a seat held by a sitting member of the other, that does not necessarily apply when an MP retires or a new seat is formed.
It means Stephanie Ryan, 27, will go head-to-head with Labor’s Clare Malcolm, who will need a 13 per cent swing to take the seat.
Mr Ryan threw his support behind Ms Ryan — “no relation”, he painstakingly pointed out — calling her “an excellent candidate and very very able lady”.
His address to the conference resembled a rousing fight speech and call to arms.
“The opposition will be a formidable opponent,” he said.
“But we will win this — we are the government and we will fight like hell to keep it.”